Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has established the sequence of events behind the damage incurred earlier this month on the subsea 7.2-million cu m/day Balticconnector natural gas pipeline, determining that the Hong Kong-flagged Newnew Polar Bear container ship likely caused the damage.
A 1.5-4.0 m-wide dragging trail leads to the point of damage, with an anchor visible “a few meters” in the distance, according to the agency’s lead investigator. Upon lifting the anchor, traces were visible indicating it had been in contact with the gas pipeline. Imaging also revealed a narrow dragging trace on the seafloor consistent with the part of the anchor connecting it to its chain.
Ship-traffic data confirmed Newnew Polar Bear’s proximity to the damage, with investigators subsequently unable to confirm that both the vessel’s front anchors remained in place. Newnew Polar Bear did not cooperate with investigators and has since left Finland’s exclusive economic zone.
NBI said it had established contact with Chinese authorities in regard to continuing its work. “Particular attention will be paid to investigating if there [was] any premeditation or negligence involved in the sequence of events,” the agency added.
Gasgrid Finland Oy and Estonian gas transmission system operator Elering AS earlier this month shut down Balticconnector’s operations after noticing an unusual drop in pressure in the pipeline (OGJ Online, Oct. 9, 2023).