Cargo of missiles, explosives leaves Finland

AP News
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Posted: Jan 06, 2012 6:12 AM
Cargo of missiles, explosives leaves Finland

A cargo of 69 Patriot missiles and 160 tons of explosives that was impounded in Finland last month left port on Friday, port officials said.

The British-flagged M/S Thor Liberty, which arrived in Finland last month, had been held in the southern port of Kotka after authorities discovered the surface-to-air missiles _ en route from Germany to South Korea _ lacked the required transit documents. Handlers also said that the explosive picric acid was not packed properly.

Police and customs lifted the embargo on Thursday after an investigation cleared the cargo's passage.

Port pilot Matti Tauru, who steered the Thor Liberty out of Kotka early Friday, said all its documents were in order. The ship's next destination was unclear.

"All the details of the cargo were in order. There was nothing irregular about it," Tauru said.

The Thor Liberty arrived in Finland from the northern German port of Emden, where it had loaded the missiles. It came to Finland to pick up a cargo of anchor chains and paper machine parts, destined for China.

Finnish officials impounded the ship on Dec. 21 when the missiles and improperly packed picric acid were found. Officials also charged the two top officers of the vessel for breaking maritime safety regulations and negligence as they had failed to notice that the explosives were deficiently packed and could have endangered the crew.

The men _ both Ukrainians _ face a maximum three-month prison sentence, or more likely will be fined, the prosecutor general's office said. Both have pleaded not guilty. On Thursday, they were given permission to leave along with the rest of the Ukrainian crew.

The embargo was lifted after the Finnish government granted a transit permit for the missiles, eventually determined to be heading to South Korea as an official government shipment from Germany. The explosives were repacked safely and did not require any special permits, official said, but declined to say where they were destined.