Tuesday February 27, 2024

Chinese vessel suspected of causing gas pipeline damage

Published : 24 Oct 2023, 23:32

  DF Report
Damage at the Balticconnector. Photo: NBI.

The Hong Kong flag carrier vessel Newnew Polar Bear of a Chinese shipping company is believed to have caused the damage to the Balticconnector, the undersea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia, said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) at the press conference on Tuesday.

The NBI made the observation following an investigation based on the sequence of events, evidence and data.

According to the NBI, it has been clarified technically how the gas pipeline damage has been caused.

General Head of Investigation Detective Superintendent Risto Lohi described that on the seabed, a 1.5 to 4 metre-wide dragging trail is seen to lead to the point of damage in the gas pipeline.

In the distance of a few metres from the gas pipeline damage point, there was an anchor which is believed to have caused the wide dragging trail and the damage itself.

“Early this morning the anchor was lifted up. There are traces in it which indicate that it has been in contact with the gas pipeline,” Lohi said.

From the finding point of the anchor onward, a narrow dragging trace is to be seen and it matches size-wise with the part connecting the anchor to the chain.

These observations in connection with data analysed on the traffic of the vessels have corroborated the main line of investigation concerning the role of the Hong Kong flag carrier vessel Newnew Polar Bear of a Chinese shipping company in the incident.

“Besides we could not visually confirm that both front anchors of the vessel were in their place, which helped in focusing the suspicions on this particular ship,” Lohi added.

At the press conference Lohi stated that Newnew Polar Bear was contacted several times, but they were not willing to cooperate.

“The police had no competence to take any coercive measures against the vessel, since it sailed in the exclusive economic zone of Finland, which is out of the police competence in this respect,” Lohi added.

“We were constantly on alert to act, if the vessel had entered the Finnish territorial waters. For reaching the vessel, international cooperation has been carried out — at present with the Chinese authorities in order to continue the investigations into the vessel as well. A lot of things can still be done,” Lohi added.

The NBI will pay particular attention to investigate, if there has been any premeditation or negligence involved in the sequence of events.

Within international legal assistance the time-span needed for taking actions is in any case several weeks, said Lohi.

Director of National Bureau of Investigation Robin Lardot also spoke at the press conference and thanked particularly the Border Guard and the Finnish Navy, attending the event, for their assistance in the investigation.

Earlier on October 20, the National Bureau of Investigation announced that it will examine if the object found in the seabed has any connection to the damage of the undersea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia.

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.