A Russian controlled cargo ship suspected of illegally carrying helicopters and munitions from Russia to Syria suddenly appeared off the Shetland Islands on June 18 as the British and Dutch governments tried to stop the voyage at the request of the United States.
The incident began the previous weekend when the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that a ship carrying Russian helicopter gunships was heading for Syria.
The concern was that they would be used by government forces against the rebels and the civilian population.
It was reported that Mrs Clinton had asked the British and other governments to stop the ship and prevent her continuing her voyage. The Curacao-registered Alaed, 7,579gt, had loaded at the Russian port of Kaliningrad. The helicopters, owned by Syria, had been refurbished in Russia and were being returned.
The ship is operated by the Russian company Femco Shipping, based at Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East. On sailing from Kaliningrad, the Alaed headed down the Baltic and into the North Sea on her way towards the English Channel. Off the Dutch coast, the ship refused to stop for the Dutch authorities and turned around and headed back up the North Sea.
Then, on June 18, the ship’s insurers, the Standard Club, of London, stated: “We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria. We have informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage.”
The Alaed arrived at Murmansk on June 23 and was reported to be at a naval base where she was to be re-registered under the Russian flag. Still with the helicopters on board, the ship would then set out for Syria again, this time escorted by another Russian ship.