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Missile shipment confirmed aboard detained vessel

A cargo vessel detained at Kotka harbour has been found to be carrying a shipment of American-made Patriot missiles. According to information received by YLE, the missile shipment originated in Germany and is destined for South Korea.

Image: YLE Kymenlaakso

Onboard the ship are 69 of the surface-to-air missiles with their explosive warheads and propelling charges.

The National Bureau of Investigation confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the missiles are onboard the ship.

Both the missiles and a cargo of explosives were en route from Germany to South Korea. According to press reports, the ship made port in Finland to pick up a consignment of anchor chain for delivery to China. The ship is registered in the Isle of Man, a self-governing territory under the British Crown.

Officials stopped the M/S Thor Liberty last week as its cargo of explosives had been stored incorrectly. The ship is carrying 150 tonnes of the explosive nitroguanidine. The material is in 25 kg packages some of which was found to be damaged. Because of the characteristics of nitroguanidine, the material should be carried in shipping containers. The crystalline compound, used as a propellant, is made from bird or bat guano.

In the course of inspection, port authorities found that the cargo also included the shipment of military missiles.

Missiles seized

An investigation was launched and it was determined that while not contraband, the proper transit permits for the shipment are inadequate or missing.

The National Bureau of Investigation and Finnish Customs are jointly investigating the incident as a case of export violations and violations of maritime safety regulations. The captain and first mate of the 32-man Ukrainian crew are being questioned, with the captain and mate being considered as suspects. A one-kilometre safety zone has been set around the ship.

The explosives onboard are to be re-packed in transport containers on Friday. The Patriot missiles are being impounded and Customs has requested assistance from the Defence Forces in storing the missiles until their origin and destination can be confirmed. The ship will remain in Kotka until at least next week.