Newnew Polar Bear sails towards Bering Strait
According to ship tracking information from the General Administration of the Northern Sea Route, the 169 meter long Newnew Polar Bear on Friday the 3rd of November sailed through the East Siberian Sea.
Three days later, it was still situated in the area. The ship has course for the Bering Strait and the waters that separate Russia’s Chukchi Peninsula with America’s Alaska. It is likely to make port call in one of Russia’s Pacific ports in the course of the next week.
Judging from a photo shared by nuclear power company Rosatom on social media VK, the vessel is fully loaded with shipping containers.
For much of the voyage across the Northern Sea Route, Newnew Polar Bear sailed in convoy with nuclear powered icebreaker Arktika and cargo vessels Pola Dudinka and Tersky Bereg.
The Arctic voyage took place as the far northern waters are in rapid process of freezing. According to Rosatom, the voyage of the Newnew Polar Bear was this year’s last eastbound convoy on the sea route.
The Newnew Polar Bear set out from Arkhangelsk on the 25th of October. Before that, the ship was involved in a range of suspicious activity.
According to the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation, available data and evidence clearly indicates that the ship is to blame for the damage to the Balticconnector gas pipeline inflicted on the 8th of October. In a press conference, General Head of Investigation Detective Superintendent Risto Lohi described how a 1,5 to 4 metre-wide dragging trail is seen leading to the point of damage of the pipeline.
The ship might also have been involved in the damaging of two communications cables. On the 19th of October, the Swedish Government informed that the damage to a communications cable between Sweden and Estonia appears to have occurred in close connection to incidents with the Finnish-Estonian gas pipeline and a Finnish-Estonian communications cable.
The involved countries have started an investigation and security in the Baltic Sea has been strengthened.
Finnish authorities make clear that they would have arrested the ship in October had it not been in international waters.
The Newnew Polar Bear sails under the flag of Hong Kong, but is connected with Russia. A sailing permission issued by the General Administration of the Northern Sea Route is addressed to Torgmoll, a Russian-registered company with offices in Moscow and Shanghai.
Shortly before setting out from Arkhangelsk on the 25th of October, the shipowners got an updated sailing permission for the Northern Sea Route. While a previous permission allowed sailing on the remote and icy Arctic route only until the 31st of October, the new permission lasts until the 15th of November.
Shipping data show that the Newnew Polar Bear left the far east Russian port of Petropavlovsk on the 14th of September and that it on the 3rd of October made port call in Kaliningrad. Three days later it arrived in the nearby naval base of Baltiisk. The ship subsequently sailed to St.Petersburg where it arrived on the 8th of October, the same day as the gas pipeline is reported to have been damaged. On October the 13th, the ship was back in Kaliningrad. It departed on the same day and arrived in Arkhangelsk on the 21st of October.
Notice to readers: this article first claimed that the Newnew Polar Bear sailed through the Bering Strait on the 6th of November. The correct is that the ship on that date was still situated in the East Siberian Sea.