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Police probe Hong Kong vessel´s role in gas pipeline damage

Published : 21 Oct 2023, 00:19

Updated : 21 Oct 2023, 10:45

  DF Report
File Photo: Baltic Connector Oy.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will examine if the object found in the seabed has any connection to the damage of the undersea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia, said NBI in a press release on Friday.

The police have established in the criminal investigation that the movements of the vessel Newnew Polar Bear flying the flag of Hong Kong coincide with the time and place of the gas pipeline damage.

For this reason, the investigation is now focused on the role of the said vessel.

“We will cooperate with Chinese authorities in order to establish the role of the said vessel. The Finnish Police also have a liaison officer in China who can handle the matter on the site,” said General Head of Investigation, Detective Superintendent Risto Lohi.

The police will examine further the background and movements of the vessel as a part of criminal investigation also with the assistance of international partners.

On Thursday, the NBI stated it had completed the crime scene investigation into the gas pipeline damage. The analysis of the collected samples is underway in the NBI Forensic Laboratory.

“The investigation has confirmed that the damage has been caused by an external mechanical force, and based on current knowledge there is no reason to believe the damage has been caused by an explosion,” Lohi said.

“A recently formed huge clump of soil containing probably an extremely heavy object has been found in the seabed. We investigate now what the object is and if it is connected to the damage of the pipeline,” Lohi added.

The object lies deep down in clay seabed and no conclusion can be reached thus far of its nature. The police and the authorities having cooperated and assisted in the criminal investigation continue the scene investigation whenever weather and sea conditions allow.

“Attempts will be made to lift the object from the sea for technical examination,” Lohi added.

Meanwhile, the President and the Ministerial Committee on Foreign and Security Policy on Friday received a briefing on the situation regarding underwater infrastructure in Finland's neighbouring areas, said a government press release.

Particular attention was paid to the investigation of the damage to underwater infrastructure in the Baltic Sea on 8 October and international cooperation on the matter.

Together with Estonia, Finland has been actively providing information to NATO Allies and EU partners about the damage to the gas pipeline and telecommunications cable and the progress of the investigation.

The EU and NATO, and many allies and partners bilaterally, support the investigation and follow-up measures in line with Finland's wishes.

The natural gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia was temporarily closed on Sunday afternoon following a suspected leak on October 8.

On October 10, the authority said that the damage to the Baltic Connector gas pipeline and a data cable between Finland and Estonia was likely caused by an external actor, not caused by the normal gas transmission process.

Finland and Estonia are jointly investigating into the damage to the Baltic Connector gas pipeline and a data cable between the two countries.

The repairing works of the Baltic Connector gas pipeline will take at least five months.