Ocean floor infrastructure vulnerability

Just about one year ago (although it seems longer than that), the Nordstream pipelines were sabotaged. Within a short period of time, all four pipelines appeared to have blown up, likely by explosive charges. As a result of this, central Europe had to find alternative sources to replace the gas delivered by the Nordstream1 pipeline, Nordstream 2 was not yet ready, albeit very close.

The next discussion was on who to blame. Luckily, there were plenty of candidates with a motive for this sabotage. Here are a few (in a random order):

  • russia (small ‘r’ intentional, see here for motivation): Europe was quite unwilling to pay gas deliveries in Ruble, and the European view on the war with Ukraine did not help
  • Ukraine: anything to block the inflow of money into russia would be beneficial in the ongoing war
  • USA: had warned Europe on becoming too dependent on russian energy sources given russia’s demonstrated habit of cutting off gas delivery as a means to apply political pressure
  • European eco-terrorists: Once the Nordstream 2 would become operational, Germany and Europe would have become even more dependent on natural gas and its emission of CO2
  • There are probably more suspects or combinations thereof…

The evidence that surfaced months later, pointed at Ukrainian nationals hiring a sailing yacht in Poland. Allegedly, the yacht did visit the places where the bombing later took place. The Ukrainian nationals disappeared into thin air, but the yacht they hired was found in Germany and seemed to bear traces of a ‘military explosive’. If the persons on that yacht could be positively identified as Ukrainians, then that would make a strong case for theory of Ukraine being the culprit. With them still not found, my personal favorites remain the russians.

But, not only a sailing yacht could be tracked to the locations of the sabotage, even other vessels such as fishing boats roamed the Eastsea, the Baltic Sea, including the general area of the sabotage. The whereabouts of submarines of course remains an unknown to us all.

russian vessels are notoriously conducting their business with their AIS switched off. An AIS system consists of small transmitters that constantly transmit the basic data of the vessel and its position, as well as directional data such as compass course and speed. This allows anyone with an AIS receiver to see where ships are located and where they are heading. Having an AIS transmitter has for many years been a mandatory safety feature for ships over a certain size. Without its AIS engaged, a ship would not show on an AIS screen and radar would be required to keep track of them. Given this, any russian fishing vessel or submarine could be the culprit.

If we concentrate on the USA as a possible stakeholder, any American submarine could be the culprit just as any russian submarine could be.


In june this year, Swedish and German researchers warned about the vulnerability of ocean floor infrastructure. little later, only weeks ago, intelligence services in the UK reported higher-than-usual activity of russian submarines around submerged infrastructure resting on the ocean floor. Now why would that be, I wonder?


Last week, we’re in october 2023 now, a gas pipe between Finland and Estonia was ‘damaged’. Around the same date, an electrical cable between the same countries was damaged. Now how could that be, I wonder?


Yesterday, Sweden announced an underwater fiber data cable between Sweden and Estonia was damaged. Now, what does this look like, I wonder?


Is there a threat here? you may ask yourself. I’d say there was a threat, and now it’s on the verge of becoming reality. In both announcements mentioned earlier, it was made very clear that the infrastructure is not guarded, nor can it be guarded in an efficient manner. As attacks on existing underwater gas, data, end electricity pipes and cables cannot be stopped, it must be ensured that overland backups or alternatives via satellite systems are guarded in a much better way.


Time for another view:
When I wrote my fictional novel The Deep, it was about the environmental extremists and the vulnerability of underwater infrastructure, more specific: the Nordstream pipelines. My book was published in the summer of 2022, and predated the actual sabotage of the Nordstream pipelines by several months. The main characters ‘practice’ on a data cable, an electricity cable before moving on to more serious tagets – sounds familiar? In my book, I tried to make three points:

  1. The environmental extremists are gaining strength
  2. Any underwater infrastructure such as the Nordstream pipelines is vulnerable
  3. Attacking underwater infrastructure is not out of reach for organized individuals

Remember that my book is fiction! In spite of that, the fictional events described in my book have become more realistic than I’d like them to be. Whilst I hope not to have become a source of inspiration for anyone, I still look out for men in black suits and sunglasses.

Editorial comment:

Only recently, it was concluded that the damage done to the Finland – Estonia pipeline and data cable was caused by a dragging anchor from a large Chinese vessel. This is opposite to one of the previous directions of investigation on sabotage.

More about the Finland – Estonia gas line here, and about the ongoing investigation here.

The latest news on the Nord Stream sabotage here.