Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Curious Case of Alaed

Russia is now playing "hide the weapons" with the rest of the world.  Moscow hired FEMCO, which leased the Netherlands/Antilles-flagged merchant vessel Alaed, to transport weapons (to include MI-25 helicopters and munitions) to Syria:

  • June 5: Alaed arrives in St. Petersburg
  • June 8:  Alaed departs St. Petersburg
  • June 10: Alaed arrives in Baltiysk (near Kaliningrad, where the MI-25 helicopters are believed to have undergone repairs)
  • June 12: Alaed departs Baltiysk, heading west towards the Atlantic Ocean; U.S. Secretary of State Clinton announces that Russia is shipping attack helicopters to Syria
  • June 15: London-based insurer Standard P&I Club is informed that Alaed, which the company has insured, may be carrying attack helicopters and munitions to Syria
  • June 18: At 0137 GMT, Alaed was at 59-17N 006-18W, steaming at 12.5 knots on a course of 229 degrees; FEMCO announces on its website that Copenhagen-based United Nordic Shipping (UNS) has canceled a contract with FEMCO for commercial management of Alaed after UNS learns of Alaed's military cargo

So, what's next for Alaed? Continue its transit to Syria without insurance (making it difficult to make port calls) or a commercial manager? Attempt a name/flag change at sea? Return to Russia, and let Moscow try another route?

UPDATE -- June 23: Moscow has decided to send Alaed to Murmansk to be reflagged (and renamed?) before continuing to Syria. ALAED was last near 71-46N 028-18E at 1621 GMT on June 22, steaming on course 125 degrees at a speed of 13.9 knots.

UPDATE -- June 24: FEMCO announces on its website that Alaed arrived in Murmansk at 0400 GMT (0800 local) on June 24.  In its release, FEMCO confirms that the vessel will be reflagged as Russian before continuing its journey.  The company also indirectly blames foreign intelligence services for the predicament without denying the fact that it was carrying weapons (missiles, helicopters, or whatever) to Syria.