Suspected Chinese Ship Linked to Baltic Cable and Pipeline Damage, Investigations Ongoing

Estonia and Finland are investigating damage to subsea telecom cables and a gas pipeline, suspected to be caused by the Chinese ship NewNew Polar Bear. China has not responded to Estonia's request for help, while Finland reported progress. The ship has been docked in Tianjin since December.

Reuters | Updated: 29-05-2024 13:41 IST | Created: 29-05-2024 13:41 IST
Suspected Chinese Ship Linked to Baltic Cable and Pipeline Damage, Investigations Ongoing
AI Generated Representative Image

Estonia's state prosecutor said China has not responded to a six-month-old request for help with an investigation into a Chinese ship which Estonia suspects cut two of its subsea telecoms cables. The two cables connecting Estonia to Finland and Sweden were damaged on Oct. 7-8, and an Estonia-Finland gas pipeline was broken in what Finnish investigators believe may have been sabotage, harming energy security and raising alarm bells in the wider region.

Both Estonia, which is investigating the cables damage, and Finland, looking into the Balticconnector gas pipeline, have named the Hong Kong-registered container ship NewNew Polar Bear as the prime suspect. "The Chinese authorities have not provided a response on executing the legal aid request as of yet", Estonian state prosecutor Triinu Olev said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We need to collect additional evidence to determine whether the damage was caused intentionally or by accident," she said. China's foreign ministry said Chinese authorities were investigating and handling the cases.

"We will actively study requests for judicial assistance according to domestic laws and relevant treaties," ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular news briefing on Wednesday. The request was sent on Nov. 10, Olev's spokesperson told Reuters in December, while a separate legal assistance request was sent to China by the Finnish investigation.

Reuters has reported that the Chinese vessel was present at all three sites around the time of their damage, on its way to a port near St Petersburg, Russia, according to data from MarineTraffic, a ship-tracking and maritime analytics provider. A large anchor, believed to belong to the Chinese vessel, was found near the pipeline, and investigators said the pipe and telecoms cables were likely broken as the anchor was dragged across the sea bed.

Finland's National Bureau of Investigation told Reuters last month it had "cooperated with Chinese authorities in solving" the damage to the pipeline and there was progress in the probe. Russia has dismissed as "rubbish" the idea that it was involved.

NewNew Polar Bear has been anchored in China's Tianjin port since returning from Russia in December, according to MarineTraffic data. NATO stepped up its patrols in the Baltic Sea last year after the incidents, and the Norwegian Navy shadowed the NewNew Polar Bear as it sailed over the country's key gas pipelines.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Give Feedback