The freighter Amurskaya disappeared in stormy weather on Sunday after sending Mayday signals which were picked up by coastguards.
Whatever happened to it? Maritime Bulletin editor Mikhail Voytenko published a picture of the last known coordinates of Amurskaya.
Concern was growing for the crew amid confusion as to how many were on board the Russian-registered vessel loaded with 700 tons of gold ore.
And there was intrigue that the ship may not have sunk, prompting speculation that the valuable cargo could have been stolen at sea in a daring heist.
Searches on Sunday and Monday, including the use of an amphibious Be-200 plane was deployed from Khabarovsk by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, failed to locate any sign of the ship nor any survivors or debris.
Two trawlers, the Ternei-1 and Kapitan Gams, and the tanker Novik were also involved in the hunt close to the ship's last known location ner the Shantar Islands.
Latest reports say the Amurskaya had eight crew on board, though earlier reports suggested nine or 11.
'The bulk freighter was en route from the port Kiran to the port of Okhotsk with a cargo of gold ore weighing 700 tons. There supposedly was a crew of nine people,' said the Far Eastern transportation supervising department.
High winds, large waves and snowy conditions were hampering the search.
'There is still a chance vessel didn't sink,' reported Mikhail Voitenko, editor of the respected Maritime Bulletin - http://www.odin.tc
Later he suggested there could have been a 'mechanical problem' and based on leaked official information on the Amurskaya's last co-ordinates, speculated that the ship 'was apparently drifting, trying to hold on against waves and wind
'The area of possible disaster is restricted and not too big.'
Amurskaya pictured after she ran aground on 4 June 2012. Picture: Igor Savitskiy
Search and rescue 'are complicated by a storm and very low visibility, but if the vessel isn't found in 48 hours, she may be considered as sunk'.
The most probable cause would be a shift in the ore cargo as the ship was tossed by waves.
The vessel has a 'weak engine' which probably 'failed' so she turned so that she was open to the waves - the 'most dangerous situation in the storm, especially with bulk cargo on board'.
Following the Mayday signal on Sunday, all radio contact with the Amurskaya was lost.
The 39 year old cargo vessel was sailing from Neran on the Uda River in Tuguro-Chumikansky district of Khabarovsk region. It was bound for the port of Okhotsk, and was carrying gold ore, it was reported.
Earlier there were claims there maybe an innocent explanation to the emergency signal received from the Amurskaya.
'The Amurskoye motor ship disappeared three hours ago after sending a distress signal. We are currently searching for the ship but have so far failed to find it,' the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Sea Rescue Coordination Centre said on Sunday.
'An emergency beacon was activated. Probably, it simply fell over the board. That is why, we can't yet say that the ship has sunk.'
It is the second incident in a few months for the 55-metre long Amurskaya.
In June she ran aground in Okhotsk port with 500 tons of food badly needed by locals. The Amurskaya was the first freighter to arrive to Okhotsk following the ice-melt. Six days later the cargo ship was floated after her cargo was partially offloaded.
The picture shows the Amurskaya after she ran aground on 4 June. The vessel's home port is Nikolayevsk-on-Amur.
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