Finnish national broadcaster Yle shared a photo taken on October 22 showing the Hong Kong-registered container ship with a missing anchor on the left side. On the night of October 8, the same ship passed over the underwater gas pipeline, stopping just before crossing it.
The damage to the gas pipe was discovered on October 8. The Finnish investigation is focused on the Chinese container ship Newnew Polar Bear. The investigation has already confirmed that the damage was caused by an external mechanical force. The anchor theory is now increasingly discussed in the media.
On October 22, a photo was published on the Russian website Fleetphoto.ru. It shows the container ship Newnew Polar Bear. The ship was then based in Arhangelsk and the anchor is missing on the left side of the ship. Yle has been unable to confirm or refute the accuracy of the photo.
Captain Mikko Heikkilä, who believes that the anchor theory may be true, also pointed to the pictures. If the anchor had fallen accidentally and hit the gas pipe, it could have seriously damaged the pipe. On the other hand, if the intention was to damage the pipe deliberately, it would have taken time to do so.
"At the level of speculation, I would say that if I were to do it on purpose, I would first stop the ship and then drop the anchor. It would take time, but if you do this rashly there are many risks involved," Heikkilä said.
The daily Helsingin Sanomat wrote on Monday that the Newnew Polar Bear came to a halt shortly before crossing the underwater gas pipeline.
According to the publication, the ship stopped 1.4 nautical miles, or about 2.6 kilometers, from the gas pipeline running along the seabed, and subsequently crossed the pipeline about eight minutes after stopping, at 1:20 a.m. At the same time, the Norwegian research institute NORSAR recorded seismological changes near the pipeline.
One theory about the damage to the gas pipe is that the anchor may have dragged and eventually damaged the pipe. The Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) reported that they found a heavy object in the sea. Theoretically, this object could be an anchor.
Another photograph of the Newnew Polar Bear was taken at the port of St. Petersburg on October 9, according to Helsingin Sanomat, which cited the Russian portal Portnews. The photo shows the anchor chain being lowered into the water from the side of the ship; however, the ship was moored and it is not usually necessary to drop the anchor. Since the picture only shows the anchor chain, it is possible that the anchor was missing.
On the same day, October 8, the underwater communication cable between Estonia and Finland was also damaged as was the communication cable EE-S1 between Estonia and Sweden.
Finland is looking into the damage to the Balticconnector, while Estonia is looking into the damage to communication cables.
State Prosecutor Triinu Olev said at an emergency press conference on October 24 that it has already been confirmed that the damage to both communications cables was caused by human action, although it is unclear whether it was intentional.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that there is reason to believe that the incidents are related, but that it is too early to reveal sensitive information.
Meanwhile, both the EE-S1 communication cable and Elisa have been repaired.
Editor: Karl Kivil, Kristina Kersa