In one of the most bizarre stories of the month, a Finnish-owned ship with a timber load belonging to Stora Enso (a Finnish company and the second largest paper producer in the world) worth an estimated 1.3 million euros, vanished (yes, vanished!) as it was passing through the English Channel nearly three weeks ago on its way to Algeria. The ship and its all-Russian crew have not been heard from since. Reports state that the ship was hijacked off the Swedish coast in July and subsequently released by suspected pirates who had reportedly boarded the vessel dressed up as Swedish anti-narcotics police. The ship, upon failing to bring its load to Algeria on 4 August was reported missing.
While the Finns seem oddly indifferent and blasé about the whole thing, Putin is already flexing his well-toned muscles and threatening to launch a Rambo-mission to find the poor hijackees (with the help of his sidekick, Medvedev, of course). We needn’t worry though- apparently timber can’t sink, so the ship will be found, intact or as a sea of floating Finnish timber in the Atlantic.
I don’t even know where to start with this one. First of all, real-world pirates in the Baltic Sea and no one notices? Secondly, who wants to steal/bargain over timber anyway? I can’t think of a cargo that would be less useful in ransom negotiations and especially with a company that is not exactly raking in the big bucks in the troubled paper business. Thirdly, why was the hijacking only reported and acted on two weeks later? In an age of near-instantaneous reporting, the company failed to realize that publicizing the event as soon as it had happened might help the search effort… REALLY? And why do Putin and Medvedev care so much (and all other parties seem to care very little)?
Russia experts in Finland have speculated that there may have been ‘secret cargo’ on the boat. They also think Putin and Co. might just be using this incident as an excuse to launch a high-profile policing mission in international waters. Drugs, trade disputes and the Russian mafia have also come up as causes and culprits. Maybe this is just another distraction from Russia’s domestic problems, one expert argued, adding that “this is like something from a James Bond-movie”.
Bond movie indeed. Starring Putin and with an equally dumbfounding storyline.