An image captured by a Finnish Border Guard of a suspected anchor has come into focus in a recent investigation into a gas pipeline rupture under the Baltic Sea. Finnish authorities have suggested that the underwater gas pipeline damage may have been due to an anchor scuffing across the seabed.
Close to the damaged pipeline, an anchor was discovered, its presence raising questions about whether its role in the damage was accidental. Initial suspicions suggested Russian involvement in deliberately causing the disruption, possibly in retaliation for Finland’s participation in NATO — allegations that Russian President Vladimir Putin has vigorously refuted.
Investigators noted wide drag marks on the seabed trailing towards the site of the damaged pipeline, with the discovered anchor slightly beyond this point. Remarkably, one of the anchor’s two spikes appeared to be broken off, lending further weight to the theory of its involvement.
The trail of evidence has now led Finnish investigators to the Chinese NewNew Polar Bear container vessel. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) revealed on Friday that their inquiries have taken a sharp turn towards this ship, as it was noticed passing over the pipeline during the timeframe when the damage occurred.
The focus on the NewNew Polar Bear intensified when it was confirmed that the vessel was indeed missing an anchor. Attempts, however, to contact the ship to ascertain if the recently found anchor belongs to it have proved unsuccessful.
The damaged pipeline, known as the Baltic-connector, functions as an underwater channel for the transit of natural gas between Finland and Estonia. Following a swift plunge in pressure earlier this month, the pipeline was promptly shut down. At the time, authorities reported that the pipeline and a telecoms cable had suffered damage at two locations due to an external mechanistic force.
In the aftermath of halted Russian imports since May last year due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Baltic-connector has been Finland’s sole route for importing natural gas. It is worth noting that natural gas comprises approximately 5% of Finland’s energy consumption.