A search is underway for a cargo ship that may have been hijacked by pirates before travelling through the English Channel

A Maltese-flagged cargo ship has gone missing amid concerns that it was hijacked in the Baltic Sea before entering the Strait of Dover right under the noses of the Coastguard.

According to the BBC the 3,988-tonne cargo ship, Arctic Sea, was transporting up to £1m worth of sawn timber from Finland to Algeria and had 15 Russian crew on board.

On 28 July the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) received radio communication from the ship that it was approaching the Strait of Dover, headed towards Bejaia in northern Algeria and due to reach this destination on 4 August. The ship never arrived in Algeria and it was last spotted via AIS off the coast of Brest on 30 July.

It is now thought that the ship was hijacked in the Baltic Sea on 24 July when it was boarded by 10 armed men claiming to be anti-drugs police and that the pirates were on board when the ship passed through the Strait of Dover.

Mark Clark, spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency told the BBC, “Who would think that a hijacked ship could pass through one of the most policed and concentrated waters in the world? It seems strange to think that a ship which had been hijacked was passing along the Channel along with ships carrying day-trippers going over to Calais for the day.”