Home/ News / Investigators puzzle over yacht’s possible role in Nord Stream blast

Andromeda, a slender, 50-foot-long sailing yacht with a teak deck, has become a key piece of the puzzle that international investigators are trying to solve as they probe the blasts that destroyed the Nord Stream pipelines off Germany’s northern coast.

German prosecutors said this week investigators had searched a boat in January they believed could have been used in relation to the bombings.

Reached on the phone, a representative of Mola Yachting GmbH, a charter company based on the German island of Rügen, confirmed on Friday that Andromeda was the vessel searched by investigators. The representative declined to comment further. Prosecutors have said the company’s owners aren’t suspected of wrongdoing.

The Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, consisting of two pipes each, run largely parallel to each other below the Baltic Sea between the western shores of Russia and the northern coast of Germany. Three of the lines, which were at the time full of gas, were severed by underwater blasts that prosecutors said were caused by planted explosives on Sept. 26 last year.

Days earlier, a group of people, some of whom presented Ukrainian passports as identification, rented a boat in northern Germany, a senior German government official who has seen a report summarizing the results of the country’s investigation told The Wall Street Journal this week.

The prosecutor’s comments and the confirmation of the charter company make it highly likely that the rented boat was the Andromeda, described on the company’s website as a Bavaria Cruiser 50 model equipped with a small diving platform and a 75 horsepower diesel engine.

German weekly Spiegel named the boat in a report on Thursday.

Investigators found traces of explosives on the yacht they searched, according to the senior government official. Since then, investigators have faced more questions than answers, the official said.

German officials and other people familiar with the investigation have said that the findings around the boat and its crew, and their possible Ukrainian links, could signal a breakthrough in the probe—or point to a false-flag operation designed to divert attention from the real culprits.

Initially, Western officials named Russia as the key suspect, but U.S. and German government officials have since told the Journal that they no longer believed that Moscow was behind the attack.

Ukrainian officials have denied any involvement in the explosions.

Russian officials have both denied involvement in the blasts and, this week, pushed back against claims that Ukraine could have orchestrated the attack, pointing instead at the U.S. and Britain. The U.S. and the U.K. governments have both denied any role in the blasts.

A key operational question investigators are looking into is whether the small boat could have carried the explosives and other supplies needed and whether the six people known to have been aboard would have been enough to carry out the attack, the German government official said. Another possibility is that the boat was part of a larger operation. They are also asking whether the mission was state-sponsored or a private effort, the official added.

“Concrete conclusions, in particular regarding the question of state involvement, can’t be made at this time," Germany’s federal prosecutor general said in a statement this week.

The yacht, which has five cabins and sleeps 11, can be rented for just over $3,000 a week.

Investigators believe it departed on its voyage on Sept. 6 from Höhe Dune, a small Baltic Sea port in the northern German city of Rostock, according to officials and representatives of the ports visited by the crew on their journey.

A crew of six was registered with Mola to use the boat, according to the German government official, but it is not known how many people actually boarded the vessel on its various stops.

It made at least two more stops—on Sept. 7 in Wiek, Germany, and between Sept. 16 and 18 on the Danish island of Christiansø, according to officials and ports representatives. Both places are close to the spots where the pipeline blasts occurred on Sept. 26.

At least part of the crew stayed for at least a night at the port hotel in Wiek, according to a port representative there.

Witnesses told German television that they had noticed a crew of five men and one woman who spoke an Eastern European language during the time the Andromeda was moored in Wiek. Port officials declined to comment.

The administrator of Christiansø, a tiny state-owned archipelago where the suspected boat docked in September before the sabotage, said he had received a request from Danish police in December 2022 asking for any records of boats that had entered the main harbor between Sept. 16 and 18, a little over a week before the pipelines blew up.

Christiansø is Denmark’s easternmost point, located an hour by boat from the larger island of Bornholm. At the request of the police, the administrator, Søren Thiim Andersen, wrote a post on the internal Facebook page for the island’s 98 residents, asking for photographs or video footage of the port from those three days, he said.

The police returned to Christiansø in January to look at data from a machine on the harbor, on which visitors register their boats, and to interview local residents, Mr. Andersen said. Visitors would be able to register with a false name and nationality, but would have to register the boat’s details.

Mr. Andersen, as well as the island’s port master John Anker Nielsen, added that in the late summer, when boats swarmed the island, no one would have noticed individual vessels, even ones carrying diving equipment, which most boats did.

Write to Bojan Pancevski at bojan.pancevski@wsj.com and Sune Engel Rasmussen at sune.rasmussen@wsj.com

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