Sea Transportation: June 23, 2003


The tale of the "Baltic Sky" became murkier. The crew didn't declare it's cargo of 680 tons of commercially manufactured ammonium nitrate-based explosives (on 450 pallets), along with 8,000 detonators and fuses. That's 170 pounds of explosive per detonator, which equals a lot of car bombs. 

Ammonia (or 'extra') dynamite is stronger, less sensitive to shock and friction, and cheaper than straight dynamite, making it probably the most widely used explosive of the dynamite family. A portion of the nitroglycerin content is replaced by ammonium nitrate, which produces cooler gases and fewer toxic fumes than other dynamites. 

It is called a "permissible explosive", which means that it can be used safely in mines where extreme heat could ignite dust or gas in the air, or where the rock is not extremely hard and water conditions are not severe. It is widely used in quarrying, stripping, and in well-ventilated mines for smaller diameter holes of small blasting operations. 

Greek Shipping Minister George Anomeritis said that the cargo was for Integrated Chemicals and Development, a company with "a post office box in Khartoum that did not exist." NATO naval forces had tipped off Greece about the "Baltic Sky" when a southern region nation reported her operating in an abnormal and suspicious pattern earlier this month, after she left Albania on April 27, stopped at Gabes in Tunisia on May 12 where the explosives were loaded, showed up in Istanbul on May 22 and was sighted in waters off northern Turkey on June 2. After the NATO tip, the Greek coast guard then shadowed the ship for five days. 

Initial reports claimed that the crew had set off from Tunisia and was headed to some port in East Africa (later identified as Sudan), but somehow ended up in Istanbul. There it changed its crew and was finally found at sea off the coast of Etolokarnania. The Mayor of Astakos, Etolokarnania, pointed out that the ship had lost its way and had stopped in the Astakos gulf asking for supplies.

The case is being watched closely by the Russian media, as they believe that the explosives maybe the kind used lately in Grozny, Chechnya. Meanwhile, the crew members are facing criminal charges of "possession and transport of explosive material" for the cargo, its possible use and the way it had been placed in the ship. - Adam Geibel


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