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Ship carrying missiles trying to avoid typhoon

A Britain-registered ship carrying missiles to South Korea has been detained in Finland after trying to avoid a typhoon, a South Korean official said Tuesday.

According to the official with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, the ship Thor Liberty, which was delivering 69 Patriot missiles from Germany to South Korea, was impounded in Kotka, southern Finland, on Dec. 15.

The vessel had left a northern German port of Emden on Dec. 13.

The official said it was en route to South Korea before forecast of a typhoon forced it to seek safe harbor in Finland.

The ship didn’t have proper transit documents for Finland, since it hadn’t initially planned to stop there, according to the official. News reports have said Finnish authorities detained the ship and its Ukrainian captain and first mate after discovering 69 surface-to-air missiles and about 150 tons of explosives aboard.

The official said Finnish officials at first mistook missiles for disguised illegal weapons, despite the lettering “rockets” on their containers.

“The customs officials there admitted their mistakes later,” the official said. “They’ve asked for the necessary documents for the missiles.”

The official also said Choi Seong-gyu, head of the DAPA’s international contracts department, and an official at South Korea’s Embassy in Finland will visit the Kotka port on Wednesday to submit transit documents and discuss a further itinerary for the shipment.

News reports said Tuesday Finland has allowed the Thor Liberty to leave, but without the weapons or the Ukrainian crew members, who are under suspicion of violating weapons export laws.

It wasn’t immediately clear which pieces of cargo had been removed and which had been repackaged.

A German defense ministry spokesman said the Patriot missiles, by U.S. company Raytheon, came from the German military and their shipment represented “a legal sale” based on a deal between Germany and South Korea “at the government level.”

(Yonhap News)