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Wednesday's papers: Cocaine in sealed containers, firms ditch Posti, comet Wirtanen appears

Drugs found by Espoo police, companies reject Posti services and a comet with a Finnish name is visible this week.

Comet 46P/Wirtanen is named after a Finnish-American astronomer. Image: Alan C. Tough

The drugs confiscated by police after a dramatic heist attempt by gunmen on Monday were found in a sealed shipping container, leading investigators to suspect the attackers had access to inside information on the logistics firm in question.

Helsingin Sanomat wrote (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that even though industrial seals attached to containers should deter anyone from including uncatalogued goods in the cargo, criminals may find ways to counteract such security measures.

Police said that the five men now in custody were seeking a shipment of cocaine sent illicitly from Brazil.

The Finnish Freight Forwarding and Logistics Association's CEO Petri Laitinen said he has never come across a case where a logistics company or one of its employees was in on the smuggling scheme, as logistics workers are carefully screened upon hiring.

"Organised crime has always sought to use legal freight to smuggle their wares," Laitinen said. "Insurance companies require all containers to be locked, and also guarded to impede access in the case of stopovers on a logistics route."

Finnish Customs director of enforcement Hannu Sinkkonen said in HS that countries and companies may have their own seals. Customs cannot check every single container, he said, because freight has the same right of passage in the EU as labour and tourism.

"If cargo has been sent from outside the EU but has been cleared by a European customs agency, we treat it as European cargo," Sinkkonen said.

Companies turn away from Posti

The Federation of Finnish Enterprises (FFE) conducted a survey among companies of all sizes in December and found that a majority of respondents will decrease their use of government postal firm Posti, following widespread strikes in November.

Of the 1,000 companies surveyed, 46 percent said they would not be using Posti services as before, while 37 percent said they would return to prior arrangements.

FFE chief Mikael Pentikäinen said in tabloid Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that the results spell utter catastrophe for the postal service.

"This study shows that many companies were badly hit by the strikes, but that Posti will bear the brunt of this aftermath," Pentikäinen said. "The bigger the firm, the less they will be dealing with Posti anymore. These are staggering figures."

The union had been locked in a dispute with employer Posti over a new agreement covering terms and conditions of work for about 10,000 workers.

Employer and employees representatives were also at odds over the fate of about 700 parcel sorting workers, who were transferred to a new collective agreement in August that effectively slashed their pay by what the union says amounts to as much as 30 percent.

The company rescinded that plan to end the strikes.

Indications that former union boss Antti Rinne knew in advance of the postal company's plans to shift some workers to a lower-paying contract and tacitly approved it in August finally lead to his stepping down as Prime Minister.

Comet Wirtanen shows up again

In celestial news, a comet with a Finnish name will again be just barely visible to the naked eye in the northern hemisphere in December.

Regional daily Aamulehti wrote (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on the appearance of comet 46P/Wirtanen, saying that the icy kilometer-long satellite will pass unusually close to the Earth – only some 30 times the distance between us and the Moon.

"It explains why the comet's head is broad and its motion fast in the sky," said expert Veikko Mäkelä from astronomical society Ursa. "It's been about two and a half years since the last naked eye sighting of a comet in Finland."

The comet's orbit around the Sun takes approximately 5.4 years, AL wrote, with the furthest point of its path in the vicinity of Jupiter. It will be most visible around 10 pm in the southern sky in December and January.

The comet was named after the American astronomer who discovered it, Carl A. Wirtanen (1910-1990), who had Finnish roots.

Mäkelä recommended using a telescope to view the comet, as 46P/Wirtanen looks like a "faint, foggy ball" when seen without instruments.