The route of the Russian ship purportedly carrying helicopter gunships to Syria remained unchanged and the vessel is still headed to St. Petersburg, a spokesman for Femco, the ship's owner, said on Wednesday.
"The ship's route remains unchanged. It is headed to St. Petersburg where it will arrive either late on July 19 or early on July 20. It all depends on weather conditions," the spokesman was quoted by Russian state media as saying.
Earlier in the day, a ship location mapping service said MV Alaed disappeared from online maps of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking maritime traffic worldwide. The vessel switched off its AIS on Tuesday and has been invisible for more than 12 hours.
Femco, however, denied that the crew had switched off its AIS signal, and said "certain weather conditions can sometimes jam the signal, though it is extremely rare."
MV Alaed had to return to the northern Russian port of Murmansk after its British insurers pulled their coverage as it rounded the coast of Scotland. Femco declined to comment on the nature of the cargo on board.
But, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had said on Sunday that the ship was carrying overhauled disassembled helicopters to Syria, not gunships, as claimed by Western media, which said the ship was carrying armaments and ammunition to that strife-torn Middle East country.
The helicopters were at the center of a diplomatic spat last month, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claiming Russia was supplying weapons that would be used against civilian protesters in Syria.
Femco said in late June that MV Alaed would operate only under the Russian flag, which was necessary "to protect its interests, the security of the ship and its crew, all of whom are Russian citizens."
by RTT Staff Writer
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