Mine clearance vessel arrives in Gulf of Finland
Gas pipeline clearance work to begin in short order
The mine clearance vessel John Lethbridge has arrived in the Gulf of Finland. The ship’s intention is to clear the route of the planned Nord Stream gas pipeline at the bottom of the Baltic Sea of sunken wartime sea mines.
The first mine may well be detonated already today, Thursday.
Photographer Leif Rosas caught up with the ship in international waters about 30 kilometres south of Central Helsinki. Presumably the vessel has anchored in the location where the first blasting is to take place.
“Nothing particularly interesting seemed to be happening on the ship”, Rosas explained.
“On the deck there were some people moving about. The approaching small boat seemed to get them very agitated. The ship blew its horn, and I was photographed and examined through binoculars. They seemed to calm down when I pulled the press flag up.”
John Lethbridge is a 69-metre ex-trawler converted as an oceanic research vessel, and sails under the Panama flag.
The ship belongs to the British BACTEC company, which has been given the task of clearing the route of the gas pipeline of unexploded wartime ordnance, mainly sea mines.
On the starboard side of the ship there is a ramp that is used to lower equipment into the water.
According to the gas pipeline company Nord Stream, the first mine will be detonated today, provided that the weather is calm enough and there are no mammals or large shoals of fish in the vicinity.
The first detonation will take place in the middle of a busy shipping lane. In the area the seabed is at the depth of around 70 metres.
An exclusion area with a radius of two kilometres will be set up around the location of the blasting. The Finnish Coast Guard will notify of the detonations in the TV teletext, the Internet, and on the radio. The vessels operating in the area will be warned through the Navtex system.
According to Nord Stream representative Simon Bonnell, the mine will be blasted by using two around one-kilogram canalised detonation charges.
The effectiveness of the charges is based on their shock energy and penetration capacity, which means less explosive is needed.
The sea mine itself contains tens of kilograms of explosive.
From the ship, a remote-controlled vehicle will be lowered into the water. The vehicle will deliver the charges next to the mine and return back to the ship.
For the detonation itself, the John Lethbridge will then move one kilometre away from the site.
“A small, perhaps a couple of metres high waterspout may be seen above the surface”, Bonnell estimates.
The preparations for each detonation will take between one and two days.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish government to give go-ahead for Baltic Sea gas pipeline (5.11.2009)
Parliament debates problems of gas pipeline (9.10.2009)
Nord Stream given permission to destroy sunken war materiel along Baltic gas pipeline route (2.10.2009)
Licencing authority calls schedule for gas pipeline licence process “challenging” (1.9.2009)
Old sea mines to be detonated to make way for Baltic Sea gas pipeline (25.11.2008)