Finland says ship can sail again, without missiles

AP News
Posted: Dec 26, 2011 10:23 AM
Finland says ship can sail again, without missiles

A British-registered ship that was held in a Finnish port after authorities discovered 69 surface-to-air missiles and 160 tons of explosives onboard has permission to travel again, but without those materials or its captain, a port official said Monday.

The M/S Thor Liberty was headed to China and had docked in the southern Finnish port of Kotka to pick up anchor chains when police last week discovered and seized the missiles and explosive piric acid on board.

The Patriot missiles were an official shipment from Germany to South Korea, while Finnish authorities said the explosives were a legitimate shipment for China. But the missiles lacked proper transit documents, and the explosives weren't safely stored, police said.

The military has destroyed some of the cargo, while other pieces were being repacked in a safer manner, Markku Koskinen, the director of traffic operations at the port of Kotka, told The Associated Press. He said he did not know exactly which pieces had been disposed of.

The ship's Ukrainian captain and first mate were taken into custody on suspicion of violating weapons export laws, and have not been cleared to leave the country. There were 11 other crew members on the ship.

Koskinen said the vessel's travel ban was lifted Monday afternoon, but could not say whether the vessel would actually leave without its captain or if it still intends to go to China.

"She can sail, but customs is still holding the cargo and the (detained) crew isn't allowed to leave Finland," he said.