REPORTS of missiles being carried on a Manx-registered ship bound for the Chinese port of Shanghai have been played down by the government.
According to media reports the vessel Thor Liberty, which is on the Isle of Man shipping register, was found to be carrying ‘anti-missile’ missiles when it berthed in Finland after setting out from Germany.
According to the BBC, the 69 Patriot missiles were found on the ship after it docked in Kotka, southern Finland, and were carried in containers marked as ‘fireworks’.
Dockers checked inside the containers after first finding up to 160 tonnes of the explosive nitroguandine incorrectly carried on open pallets.
Economic Development Minister John Shimmin MHK said it was not the carriage of the explosive in itself that was the problem but rather the way in which the nitroguandine was stored.
Mr Shimmin said the ship was originally detained on December 15 in Finland because its cargo of nitroguandine had not been loaded in compliance with the relevant stowage requirements.
He said the cargo, which was loaded in the German port of Papenburg should have been stored in sealed containers rather than the open pallets which had been used.
‘The Shipping Register is working with the operator to resolve the situation and to ensure the cargo stowage requirements are accurately followed in the future,’ he said.
But he added responsibility for complying with the requirements ultimately lies with the ship’s operators rather than the flag state it operates under.
Dick Welsh of the Isle of Man Shipping Register said he found the situation disappointing.
‘But we can only work with the operators to ensure this does not happen again,’ he added. ‘We have information showing that this consignment is a legitimate cargo.
‘We have a very good reputation so we are disappointed by the outcome.
‘They know what they should have done and we will work with them to help them to comply.’
According to a report in The Shipping Herald, the ship was impounded after the discovery while an investigation by Finnish police took place and the ship’s crew of 32 were questioned about possible breaches of Finnish export and weapons trading laws.
A spokesman for the ship’s owners, Thorco Shipping, expressed surprise and said he was unaware of the matter. Another company official suggested the missiles could have been loaded by mistake.
According to the news agency Reuters, reports in the Finnish media said the ship was due to stop at South Korea but this has not been confirmed. Patriot missiles are US-designed for US and allied forces, and South Korea is among the states that use them.