European piracy?

We've all become accustomed to hearing about incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia in recent months, but a new incident that reportedly occurred in Swedish waters have some wondering if the problem has spread to the North Atlantic.

Late last month, a cargo ship named the Arctic Sea, left Finland carrying more than one million dollars worth of timber destined for Algeria. A day after leaving port, however, the Russian-crewed vessel reported that it had been boarded in Swedish waters by masked men claiming to be police officers. 

The hijackers reportedly tied up and beat the ship's crew, but mysteriously left about 12 hours later in a high-speed inflatable boat. The Arctic Sea and its crew then proceeded through the English Channel, making contact with British maritime authorities in the process. The last reported contact with the ship, according to published reports, occurred on July 30, in the Bay of Biscay, after which it was never heard or seen from again. 

This is undoubtedly one of the most bizarre stories I've ever read as it relates to incidents of piracy. If these supposed hijackers were pirates, why did they release the ship and its crew? Were they looking for something on the ship? Could the hijackers actually be the ones who piloted the ship through the English Channel and had contact with authorities? Did the ship fall victim to an accident? We may never know the answers to these questions.

I think this incident does raise the issue of security on the high seas and what shippers are willing to do to prevent incidents like these from occurring. Many people have weighed in on the issue given what has occurred recently in the Gulf of Aden and solutions to the problem have ranged from training crews in non-lethal defense tactics and teaching mariners effective evasive maneuvers to the outright arming of crew members or placing security teams on the ships themselves.

It's definitely an issue that's going to have to be addressed unless companies want to continue losing cargo and personnel to pirates.