Finnish authorities are examining a heavy object recovered from the seabed, in the course of their investigations into the recent Balticconnector natural gas pipeline rupture, public broadcaster Yle reports.
Yle says that investigators found that a ship flying under the flag of Hong Kong had been seen in the vicinity of the Balticconnector gas pipeline, which runs North-South under the Gulf of Finland, found to be leaking gas on the morning of Sunday, October 9.
The Newnew Polar Bear is, Yle reports, owned by a Chinese firm, and its movements coincided with the time and place the pipeline was damaged, Finnish authorities say.
Risto Lohi, heading up the Finnish investigation, conducted by the NBI, Finland's National Bureau of Investigations, said: "The investigation has confirmed that the damage has been caused by an external mechanical force, and based on current knowledge there is no reason to believe the damage has been caused by an explosion."
A large portion of clay found on the seabed likely contains a "large and heavy" object, while samples had been taken for analysis to ascertain that.
"Attempts will be made to lift the object from the sea for technical examination," Lohi added.
Investigators so far believe the damage was caused by an external force, but have not apportioned culpability.
The incident followed particularly heavy seas as stormy conditions hit Finland and Estonia and the surrounding region.
Finland and Estonia set up a joint investigation team following the Balticconnector leak, an episode which coincided with damage to a North-South telecoms cable operated by Estonian firm Elisa, and to an East-West cable which runs between Sweden and Estonia and is owned by Arelion, a Swedish telecoms company.
Opened in late 2019, the Balticconnector pipeline links Finland to Estonia and is an important strategic gas supply pipeline. The rupture was found in the portion of the pipeline which lies in Finnish waters; Balticconnector will be out of action until next spring.
Editor: Andrew Whyte