Secretary of State for Defense, Ben Wallace, has confirmed that the UK government will acquire specialist ships to protect underwater infrastructure, including cables and pipelines.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Sunday, Wallace cited the “mysterious damage” to the Nord Stream gas pipelines that occurred last week in the Baltic Sea, saying that the incident “should remind us of how fragile our economy and infrastructure is to such hybrid attacks.”
“Our intent is to protect them,” he added. “Our internet and energy are highly reliant on pipelines and cables. Russia makes no secret of its ability to target such infrastructure.”
“So for that reason, I can announce we recently committed to two specialist ships with the capability to keep our cables and pipelines safe,” he continued.
“The first multi-role survey ship for seabed warfare will be purchased by the end of this year, fitted out here in the UK and then operational before the end of next year … The second ship will be built in the UK and we will plan to make sure it covers all our vulnerabilities.”
The Nord Stream gas leaks come amid a stark energy crisis gripping Europe, partly caused by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and experts have now suggested that the leaks were caused by unexplained explosions.
Last week, the German geological research center GFZ released a seismograph taken on the Danish island of Bornholm, close to where the leaks occurred, showing two recorded spikes of activity on the day the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines first experienced dramatic falls in pressure.
The seismograph recorded near-silence in the area of sea containing the pipelines until just after midnight GMT, followed by a sudden tremor that was repeated at 5 p.m. GMT, but GFZ declined to comment on whether the tremors could have been caused by explosions.
They did, however, rule out the possibility that the tremors were caused by earthquakes.
Björn Lund, director of the Swedish National Seismic Network (SNSN), which measures earthquakes and explosions, was among the first to suggest in an interview with the Swedish television channel SVT on Tuesday that the initial 2.3 magnitude tremor could be the result of an “underwater explosion.”
An investigation by Sweden into the leaks is ongoing.
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