EDF colonel: Fully protecting undersea infrastructure virtually impossible

Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Intelligence Center Colonel Ants Kiviselg.
Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Intelligence Center Colonel Ants Kiviselg. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Intelligence Center Col. Ants Kiviselg said it is practically impossible to ensure undersea cables and gas pipelines are protected at all times. Col. Kiviselg was discussing the Balticconnector pipeline leak on ETV show "Vikerhommik."

On Sunday night, the Balticconnector gas pipeline, which lies on the seabed, between Estonia and Finland began to leak.

Shipping traffic site Marine Traffic identified the presence of the Russian cargo ship SVG Flot in the vicinity of the Balticconnector leak between last Friday evening and Sunday night. Four or five other vessels were also in that area at the same time.

Kiviselg said that the Estonian Defense Forces Intelligence Center, along with the Estonian Navy (Merevägi), also monitors the movement of vessels in the Baltic Sea.

"We have our own list of vessels that are dangerous for us and whose movements we monitor. And it can also be said that ships sailing in the Baltic Sea do not go unnoticed by us," Kiviselg said.

Kiviselg said he could not comment in detail on the movements or locations of the vessels in question.

"The investigation is ongoing. But at the same time, the locations of these vessels can also be gleaned from public sources. Anyone can check it for themselves," Kiviselg said.

"I think there are undersea cables or gas pipelines unprotected all over the world. Because they cross international waters as well as national exclusive economic zones, it is not physically possible to completely cover or protect these gas pipelines or communication cables," Kiviselg said.

It would be possible to monitor the cables or pipelines using sensors and then detect if and when any changes occur. "Maybe that would make it easier to attribute any damage to the entity or a vessel that has caused it. However, at the same time, it's not conceivable for the entire extent of that gas pipeline or cables to be protected all the time. We can increase our presence there and our situational awareness at sea, and decisions on that will be made according to these findings," Kiviselg said.

According to Kiviselg, Estonia now needs to discuss and review the critical seabed along with its foreign partners in order to ensure it is protected and monitored it in a more prudent manner.

"It is also clear that there are a lot of cables. It is a real challenge in terms of resources. This is where we need to conduct threat assessments and examine which are the most critical pieces of infrastructure," he added.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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