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Tags: nordstream 2 | pipeline | leaks

'Dark Ships' Seen in Area of Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Before Leaks

gas emanating from a leak on the nord stream 2 gas pipeline
The release of gas emanating from a leak on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea on Sept. 28. (Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 14 November 2022 08:21 AM EST

The first gas leaks from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea were detected on Sept. 26. It poured up to 400,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere, and officials suspected sabotage of the pipeline.

New analysis shows that two large ships without their trackers on appeared around the leak sites in the days right before they were detected.

According to the analysis by satellite data monitoring firm SpaceKnow, which was seen by WIRED, the two "dark ships" passed within a few miles of the pipeline.

"We have detected some dark ships, meaning vessels that were of a significant size, that were passing through that area of interest," said Jerry Javornicky, the CEO and co-founder of SpaceKnow. "They had their beacons off, meaning there was no information about their movement, and they were trying to keep their location information and general information hidden from the world."

The discovery, which was made by analyzing images from numerous satellites, can potentially increase speculation about the explosions that caused the pipeline to leak.

Several countries that have been investigating believe that the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines were hit with explosions, with many suspecting Russia as the culprit, which it has denied.

Once SpaceKnow identified the ships, it reported its findings to NATO officials, who are investigating the pipeline explosions. NATO officials asked the company to provide more information.

NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu stated it does not comment on "details of our support or the sources used" but confirmed that NATO believes that the explosions were part of a "deliberate and irresponsible act of sabotage."

NATO confirmed as well that it has increased its presence in the Baltic and North Seas. But a NATO official who did not have permission to speak publicly told WIRED that NATO did receive the data from SpaceKnow and said that satellite imagery can be useful for investigations.

The company searched through 90 days of archived satellite images for the area in order to detect the ships. It analyzes image from several satellite systems and uses machine learning to detect objects within them, including the ability to monitor roads, buildings, landscape changes, and military equipment.

Regarding the site of the explosions, Spaceknow detected 25 ships in the area in the weeks prior to the blasts. Two of them did not have their automatic identification system (AIS) transponders turned on, and those two ships passed through that area right before the leaks were detected.

Large ships are required by international law to install and use AIS in order to help them navigate and avoid collisions. AIS will broadcast a ship's name, location, the direction of travel and speed, among other information. Ships usually do not turn these systems off, and when they "go dark," they are often suspected of illegal activity.

SpaceKnow detected the ships that didn't keep AIS on by using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from satellites, which can use SAR to bounce radio waves off the ground and create images from them.

Andrey Kurekin, a coastal ocean color scientist at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory with experience in analyzing satellite images for detecting objects at sea, said that SAR can help in detecting ships, since it shows reflections from metal objects.

Kurekin added that SAR images can be used to identify the longitude and latitude coordinates of a ship, the direction it is heading, and potentially estimate its speed. Kurekin explained that "the main advantage of SAR over optical sensors is that the microwaves penetrate through clouds. It's quite difficult to hide a ship from a SAR sensor."

SAR images of the ships showed them as glowing objects not far from the Nord Stream 2 explosion site.

"We assume it was one of those two dark ships that we have detected, but we're not making any decision," Javornicky said, adding that the company doesn't determine what happened or who is responsible, but just provides data to the proper authorities.

There are multiple investigations into the explosions, with investigators working in Denmark, Germany and Sweden. The Swedish security service, Säkerhetspolisen, is conducting a "criminal investigation of gross sabotage" regarding both the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, according to agency spokesperson Gabriel Wernstedt.

"Certain seizures were made during the on-site investigations that are being analyzed," Wernstedts aid.

Säkerhetspolisen has stated that detonations have occurred at the pipelines and that the Swedish armed forces are also involved in the investigations.

© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


GlobalTalk
The first gas leaks from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea were detected on Sept. 26.
nordstream 2, pipeline, leaks
737
2022-21-14
Monday, 14 November 2022 08:21 AM
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