Finnish police on Friday said a Chinese ship was the focus of their investigation into suspected sabotage of a pipeline between Finland and Estonia which was damaged this month.
After a leak led to the shutdown of the Balticconnector pipeline on October 8, Finnish authorities have been investigating the damage which they say was caused by “external” activity.
“The movements of the vessel Newnew Polar Bear flying the flag of Hong Kong coincide with the time and place of the gas pipeline damage,” the National Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.
“We will cooperate with Chinese authorities in order to establish the role of the said vessel,” Detective Superintendent Risto Lohi was quoted as saying.
Police also confirmed the damage was caused by “an external mechanical force” and that they had found “a heavy object” near the damaged pipeline.
“A recently formed huge clump of soil containing probably an extremely heavy object has been found in the seabed,” Lohi said.
The police will attempt to lift the object from the seabed to investigate whether it is connected to the damaged pipeline.
It will take at least five months to repair the pipeline, its operator said last week, leaving Finland totally dependent upon liquefied natural gas imports for the winter.
Natural gas accounts for around five percent of Finland’s energy consumption, mainly used in industry and combined heat and power production.
Last year, underwater explosions resulted in the rupture of three pipelines in the Baltic Sea responsible for the transportation of natural gas from Russia to Western Europe.