Chinese box ship becomes the focus of Baltic pipeline damage probe

  • November 23, 2023
  • News

A Finnish inquiry is investigating possible sabotage of the Balticonnector gas pipeline linking Finland and Estonia, with a Chinese containership at the centre of the investigation. A gas pipeline and telecoms cable connecting two countries over the Baltic Sea were damaged earlier this month. Finnish investigators suspect a deliberate act.

Finnish authorities are currently investigating the cause of damage to a ship which occurred at a specific time and location. The ship in question is the Hong Kong-registered New Polar Bear with a capacity of 1,638 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). The vessel, which was built in 2005 and was previously known as Baltic Fulmar, belongs to Newnew Shipping, a Chinese liner that primarily serves the Russian trade. The Finnish police will work together with Chinese authorities to identify the role of the vessel in the incident. Detective Superintendent Risto Lohi, who is leading the Finnish investigation, stated that they have a liaison officer in China who will handle the matter on-site. A Russian MPP, Sevmorput, operated by Atomflot and part of the state nuclear company Rosatom, was also in the area at the time, and Estonian investigators are looking at both ships.

According to the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation, an “external mechanical force” caused damage to a pipeline, and a “heavy object” was found near it.

A large clump of soil containing the object was discovered on the seabed. The police will lift the object from the clay seabed to investigate if it is related to the damaged pipeline. The pipeline operator expects it will take five months to fix the pipeline, which will leave Finland dependent on LNG imports for the winter.

Additionally, a telecoms cable connecting Sweden and Estonia experienced a partial outage around the same time, which police believe was caused by external interference. These incidents have raised concerns about the security of energy supplies in the Nordic region, resulting in NATO increasing patrols in the Baltic Sea. Last year, three pipelines delivering natural gas from Russia to Western Europe ruptured due to underwater explosions in the Baltic Sea.