A cargo ship feared to have been seized by pirates has disappeared while sailing through the English Channel.

An international maritime hunt is underway for the Arctic Sea after contact was lost with the 3,988-ton ship after its final call to Dover coastguards.

Nothing has been heard from the ship, which is carrying $1.85 million of timber, or its 15 Russian crew members since the routine contact on July 29.

The Russian Navy is searching for the Arctic Sea after sightings suggested that the officers and crew may have been coerced into taking the ship to Africa.

There has been growing international concern about the increase in piracy but this is the first suspected case to have occurred in northern European waters in modern times. Most attacks have taken place off the coast of Africa or in the Far East.

Click here for more on this story from the Times of London.