Anchor suspected as cause of pipeline damage between Estonia and Finland

Chinese container ship Newnew Polar Bear.
Chinese container ship Newnew Polar Bear. Photo: Mihkel Maripuu

According to information revealed at a joint press conference held by the Finnish Central Criminal Police and the Border Guard on Tuesday, the damage to the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Estonia and Finland may have been caused by an anchor, as indicated by a drag trail found during investigations.

«We have thoroughly investigated the area near and around the site of the damage to the gas pipeline on the Baltic Sea floor,» a representative from the Finnish Central Criminal Police said, emphasizing that various authorities worked closely together in the investigation and information was also shared with the Estonian authorities.

An anchor has been found on the seabed that may have been responsible for the damage sustained by the gas pipeline. The anchor, which weighed six tons, was lifted from the seabed on Tuesday, missing one of its flukes. Only a small part of the anchor was visible before it was brought to the surface by divers, who completed their work last night.

The Central Criminal Police is diligently working to ascertain whether this object is related to the gas pipeline's damage, placing a significant emphasis on scrutinizing the navigational paths of various vessels. The investigation remains in progress, necessitating substantial further efforts.

In the course of the preliminary investigation conducted by the Finnish Central Criminal Police, it was determined that the navigational route of the Chinese container ship Newnew Polar Bear, registered under the Hong Kong flag, aligned with both the timing and location of the Balticconnector gas pipeline's damage, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reported prior to the press conference.

The investigation continues in cooperation with Chinese authorities. The crew and captain of Newnew Polar Bear have not yet been contacted. The ship's speed did not change during the event, nor did it stop at the time of the incident.

On Oct. 8, damage was noticed in the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia, and an underwater communication cable was also damaged.

Finnish authorities said that the damage was likely intentional. However, the intentionality or reason for causing the damage has yet to be fully proven.

The Finnish Central Criminal Police began an investigation into the matter. The gas pipeline damage was located in the Finnish economic zone, while the cable damage was in the Estonian economic zone.