The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Finland has suggested that the anchor of a Chinese-registered vessel could be responsible for the damage incurred by the Balticconnector gas pipeline earlier this month. The incident occurred on October 8, and the NBI is currently investigating whether the damage was deliberate or unintentional.
During a press conference on Tuesday, an NBI spokesperson revealed that a large anchor had been retrieved from the seabed near the location where the pipeline was damaged. The police are now working to determine if the anchor belonged to a Chinese container vessel that was in the vicinity at the time of the incident. NBI Director Robin Lardot emphasized that it is too early to ascertain the motive behind the damage.
Previously, authorities had indicated that the damage to the Balticconnector pipeline, as well as two undersea telecommunications cables, was caused by external mechanical force. They are actively investigating the possibility of intentional sabotage.
Investigators have noticed drag marks on the seabed, leading up to the section of the pipeline that was damaged. The anchor found on the seabed appears to have become detached from its host vessel and was located in close proximity to the damaged area.
The NBI had previously announced that its investigation was primarily focused on the Chinese container ship NewNew Polar Bear, which was present in the immediate vicinity when the incident occurred. Finnish police have now confirmed that the ship was missing one of its front anchors. Pictures taken of the ship in the Russian port of St. Petersburg on October 9, one day after the pipeline was damaged, seem to indicate irregularities with its anchor system.
China has called for an objective, fair, and professional investigation into the cause of the pipeline and telecoms cable damage. In response, NATO has increased its patrols in the Baltic Sea to monitor the situation.
As a result of the October 8 incident, Finland’s gas supplies have been restricted. However, Helsinki has managed to compensate for any shortfalls by importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) through its Inkoo port.
It is worth noting that similar acts of sabotage occurred in September of the previous year when the Nord Stream pipelines, connecting Russia and Germany, were severely damaged by undersea explosions. Authorities concluded that these explosions were deliberate acts of sabotage, but the identity of the perpetrators has yet to be determined.
The investigation into the Balticconnector gas pipeline damage is ongoing, and Finnish authorities are working diligently to establish the exact cause and motive of the incident.