FINLAND DEMANDS INVESTIGATORS ON VESSEL THAT BROKE GAS PIPELINE

10 DEC 2023

Finland will demand its investigators be allowed on board the NewNew Polar Bear, a Hong Kong-flagged vessel whose anchor ripped up a subsea gas pipeline near Finnish waters in October, President Sauli Niinisto said.

It remains unclear whether the ship dragged its anchor for hundreds of kilometers “intentionally or as a result of extremely poor seamanship,” he told public broadcaster YLE TV1 in an interview Saturday.

More will be known when the vessel arrives in China and the captain can be questioned, Niinisto said. “We hope, and actually require, that Finnish investigators be involved.”

Authorities in the newest member of the NATO defense alliance are working to ascertain what happened to the interconnector in the Gulf of Finland that began leaking Oct. 8. They’ve linked the damage to Newnew Polar Bear, whose registered owner is Hainan Xin Xin Yang Shipping. Its beneficial owner is Ledoco International Logistics, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The vessel is currently near the Korean peninsula on its way toward Tianjin in China, having sailed through Russia’s arctic, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Investigators have discovered hundreds of kilometers of drag marks, as wide as 4 meters (13 feet), on the seabed where the 77-kilometer Balticconnector gas pipeline linking Finland and Estonia was breached. The pipeline has moved eastward on the seafloor. Three data cables on the bottom of the sea were also damaged, including one belonging to Russia.

The cargo ship sailed over the pipeline on Oct. 8 on its way to St. Petersburg and left the Russian city on Oct. 10, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The vessel only called at Russian ports while in Europe in September and October, the data show.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization responded by increasing patrols in the Baltic Sea, dispatching aircraft and minehunters to the area. The Joint Expeditionary Force, a grouping of 10 northern European nations this week also agreed to deploy vessels and planes across the region to protect critical undersea infrastructure.

 

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