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Estonia Also Targets Chinese Ship After Finding Evidence on Damaged Cable

Chinese containership
NewNew Polar Bear on an earlier voyage as she started service on the NSR (Global Ports)

Published Nov 10, 2023 3:22 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

Estonia’s State Prosecutor joined with its counterparts in Finland in declaring that they had found evidence of human activity to the damaged communications lines in the Baltic and identified a Chinese containership as the primary suspect. Estonia reports it has filed an official request for cooperation from the Chinese authorities for the investigation into the containership NewNew Polar Bear.

Estonian authorities are taking the lead on the investigation into the damage to the Estonia-Sweden communication cable while Finland is leading the investigation into its communications and gas lines with Estonia that were damaged. Reports this week also suggested that a Russian communication cable may have been damaged at the same time but that is also excluded from the Estonian criminal proceedings.

“In order to thoroughly examine the communication cable to determine whether or not there was any evidence of human-made damage to the cable, we had to wait for weather that would allow investigative operations at sea,” said Estonian State Prosecutor Triinu Olev. “Now the investigators of the Defense Police were able to take a closer look at the communication cable and confirmed that the Estonian-Swedish communication cable has damage caused by human activity."

He noted that his Finnish counterparts had come to a similar conclusion on the Estonian-Finnish communication cable. He said they were coordinating their separate investigations but that they had to wait on the inspection until the communication operator restored the capacity of the cable.

In a statement released today, the Estonians are reporting that the Defense Police Board “detected man-made traces on the Estonian-Swedish communication cable.” They noted that the circumstances of the damage caused to the Estonian-Swedish communication cable will be explained in the same criminal proceedings in which the circumstances of the damage to the Estonian-Finnish communication cable are being checked.

The State Prosecutor's Office has also completed a request for legal assistance to the People's Republic of China as the NewNew Polar Bear is operated by a Chinese company. The 15,952 dwt containership is also registered in Hong Kong. The Chinese shipping company Hainan Yangpu NewNew Shipping Co., which acquired the ship earlier this year, had highlighted her first successful voyages on Russia’s Northern Sea Route including her arrival in the Russian port in Kaliningrad at the beginning of October after a six-week passage. The damage to the assets in the Baltic is believed to have happened on October 7 to 8 corresponding to the time the vessel was in the area.

Finnish authorities retrieved an anchor and broken parts from the sea floor recently which is suspected of coming from the NewNew Polar Bear. However, it has been impossible to inspect the vessel because she departed Archangelsk and is currently sailing in convoy across the Northern Sea Route.

"According to the data gathered in the criminal proceedings, the ship belongs to a company registered in China, and since the ship is not located in Estonian waters, the Defense Police Board cannot itself carry out procedural actions related to the ship or the people on board. Therefore, we prepared a request for legal assistance to China, so that the law enforcement authorities there would, within the framework of international cooperation, carry out procedural actions related to the ship and its crew for Estonian criminal proceedings in particular, and help clarify the circumstances," said State Prosecutor Olev.

The statement notes that researchers are still working on different scenarios and are gathering additional evidence to confirm or rule out various alternative theories on how the damage occurred.