A cargo ship called the MS Thor Liberty, owned by a shipping company based in Denmark, was docked at the Finnish port of Kotka when alert dock workers noticed some funny-looking containers marked “fireworks.” This naturally made the hackles rise on the Finns, because the Thor Liberty was bound for China, and everybody knows the Chinese invented fireworks. Why would they be importing them?
Finnish authorities opened up those fireworks crates, and found them to contain 69 American-made Patriot anti-missile missiles, which are not terribly useful during fireworks displays, unless you get your kicks by shooting down your neighbor’s fireworks on the Fourth of July. They would, however, be of some interest to the Chinese military. Many of China’s R&D (Ripoff & Duplicate) engineers probably had Patriot missiles written on their Christmas lists, which they promptly swallowed, to avoid being persecuted for unacceptable quasi-religious activities.
The shipping company, Thorco, says it has no idea how those missiles got aboard the Thor Liberty, to say nothing of the 160 tons of improperly packed nitroguanidine, which the BBC helpfully explains is “a low-sensitivity explosive with a high detonation speed.” Fortunately, China is right next to Finland, so there wouldn’t be much risk of that stuff blowing up while the ship wallowed through rough seas.
Finnish authorities pronounced the whole situation “quite unusual,” which I think is equivalent to DEFCON 3 in that marvelously understated land. To add to the international confusion, the Thor Liberty sailed out of Germany under a British flag and has a Ukrainian crew, which ended up spending a good deal of time answering questions from stern officials with lots of vowels in their names.
German news source The Local quotes an Oldenburg customs official saying, “I can’t speak for Finnish customs, but as far as Germany is concerned, the shipment was legal,” despite the ship’s apparent lack of a license to carry weapons. There are theories this was all a silly paperwork snafu, and the Patriots should have been destined for South Korea, which often buys such missiles, and also enjoys receiving shipments of improperly packed explosives. Lucky thing the Finns caught these MacMissiles before the situation got even stranger.