A dislodged anchor from a Chinese cargo ship is believed to have damaged the Baltic Connector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia, prompting an investigation into the new Polar Bear vessel and its maritime footprint.
Wed 25 Oct 2023 00:01, UK
Finnish police believe a Chinese container ship’s anchor was removed, causing damage to a Baltic Sea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia.
The Hong Kong– Flagged cargo ship New New Polar Bear damaged the undersea Baltic Connector pipeline spanning the Gulf of Finland earlier this month, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said, citing sources and data.
Investigators said the Finnish navy had recovered an anchor from the site of the pipeline rupture on October 8, and that they were investigating whether it belonged to a Chinese vessel.
A 1.5- to 4-meter-wide seabed led to the pipe break, likely caused by the removal of a six-tonne anchor.
“It has clues [anchor] This indicates there was contact with the gas pipeline,” said Detective Superintendent Risto Lohi, who is leading the NBI investigation.
Establishing whether the damage was intentional, accidental or caused by “bad sea travel” will be the focus of the next phase of the investigation, officials said.
On October 8, Finnish and Estonian gas system operators noticed a significant pressure drop in the pipeline, causing it to be shut down.
A 48-mile pipeline connecting the Finnish city of Inkoo and the Estonian port of Baltiski suffered mechanical damage within the Finnish economic zone, leading to its displacement from its original position on the seabed.
Finnish authorities last week identified the New New Polar Bear as the prime suspect, aligning the ship’s route and location with the time and location of the incident.
Recent social media images of a Chinese ship docked in Russia’s St. Petersburg port during a Baltic Sea cruise showed one of its anchors missing.
The Marine Traffic website shows the ship is currently transiting the waters of northern Russia, possibly on its way back to China via the Northern Sea Route.
Despite repeated attempts to reach the ship’s captain, Finnish investigators have been unable to establish contact and are currently cooperating with Chinese authorities on the matter.
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During a routine media briefing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterated Beijing’s demand for a fair and comprehensive investigation into the incident, saying the Chinese ship was operating normally at the time.
New images released by the Finnish border guard revealed significant damage to the €300m (£260m) Baltic Connector gas pipeline, a vital link between Finland and the European gas network, which began operating in early 2020.
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Repairs are estimated to last at least until the end of April.
Meanwhile, Finland-Estonia and Sweden-Estonia telecommunications cable pipelines were damaged at the same time, which Finnish authorities attribute to a Chinese ship.