Chinese vessel’s anchor probable cause of Balticconnector damage

Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has clarified technically the cause of the Balticconnector gas pipeline damage, stating that the Newnew Polar Bear vessel, flying the flag of Hong Kong, is believed to have caused it.

The NBI stated at a press conference on October 24 that it had made progress in the investigation of the pipeline damage and that it had been clarified technically how it was caused.

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

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

From the finding point of the anchor onward, a narrow dragging trace has been found, which matches size-wise with the part connecting the anchor to the chain. 

According to the NBI, these observations in connection with data analyzed on the traffic of the vessels have corroborated the main line of investigation concerning the role of Newnew Polar Bear in the incident.

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“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. “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 stated that Newnew Polar Bear was contacted several times, but was not willing to cooperate. 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.

“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 said. “We were constantly on alert to act, if the vessel had entered the Finnish territorial waters.”

NBI noted that particular attention will be paid to investigating if there had been any premeditation or negligence involved in the sequence of events. Within international legal assistance the timespan needed for taking actions is in any case several weeks.

To remind, seismic signals have been recorded in the vicinity of the Balticconnector gas pipeline indicating a possible explosion had occurred around the time the drop in pressure was observed on October 8.

The event was located approximately 40 kilometers north of Paldiski, Estonia, close to where the Balticconnector pipeline crosses the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

In the criminal investigation, the Finnish police established that the movements of Newnew Polar Bear coincide with the time and place of the gas pipeline damage.