Investigators from Finland have retrieved a sizable anchor from the location where a gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea sustained significant damage. They are currently attempting to determine if it belongs to a Chinese cargo ship.
On Tuesday, the Finnish central criminal police (KRP) announced that they had retrieved the 6-ton anchor, which was missing one of its prongs, from the sea floor with the help of a navy crane. They also discovered deep scratches on either side of the broken pipeline.
The NBI, the national investigative agency of the country, stated that their investigation is centered on the NewNew Polar Bear, a container ship with a Hong Kong flag and Chinese ownership. The NBI also reported on Tuesday in Helsinki that the ship was lacking a front anchor.
The NBI reported that attempts were made to reach the ship, which was in close proximity to the pipeline damage, but were unsuccessful. They also stated that the investigation is currently centered on determining if the damage was intentional.
Robin Lardot, the head of NBI, stated that the following inquiries pertain to the intentionality, negligence, and poor seamanship involved in the situation, potentially revealing a motive for the events. However, it is currently too premature to provide an answer.
On October 11th, Helsinki officially acknowledged the harm done to the Balticconnector gas pipeline and the parallel Estlink data communications cable connecting Finland and Estonia. This occurred two days after the operators closed the pipeline due to a sudden decrease in pressure.
After further investigation, officials stated that they believed the harm was inflicted by a “force from outside” that was “related to machinery, not an explosion”. The intelligence agency for state security acknowledged that it is possible a government entity was involved.
Earlier this year, Finland became a part of Nato after changing its long-standing stance of neutrality due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The transatlantic alliance has promised a strong and unified reaction if the pipeline damage was caused by sabotage.
The operators of Balticconnector have stated that the pipeline will require a minimum of five months to be repaired and is not expected to resume operations until April 2024 at the earliest. Gas accounts for approximately 5% of Finland’s energy supply.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister of Sweden, Ulf Kristersson, stated that a second telecommunications cable connecting Sweden and Estonia under the Baltic Sea was intentionally damaged. However, he refused to provide further information, stating that they will not disclose any specifics at this time. Kristersson made these remarks to reporters separately.
According to the Swedish navy, tracks were discovered on the nearby seabed. However, they stated that it is uncertain whether it was intentional or accidental.
On Tuesday, Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of Nato, stated that members of the alliance have numerous submarine internet, power, gas, and oil cables stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.
Stoltenberg acknowledged that undersea critical infrastructure is susceptible to attacks. He mentioned that Nato has increased patrols in the Baltic region following these incidents and is collaborating with the private sector, which holds a majority stake in this infrastructure.
In June, the alliance established a fresh facility to safeguard undersea pipelines and cables. This decision was made in response to a string of explosions that occurred last year, which damaged three out of the four Nord Stream pipelines responsible for transporting Russian gas to western Europe. The cause of these explosions remains unknown.