Coastguards rescued three divers off Poland’s northern coast this weekend, whose dubious explanation of their nighttime dive near critical energy infrastructure, along with their mysterious identities, has reportedly sparked an investigation by several agencies. The three men, who told authorities they were Spanish nationals, were rescued near the Polish coastal town of Gdansk on Saturday night after their small motorboat broke down and they were unable to return to shore.
Since then, doubts about their intentions have grown. They were rescued not far from the Naftoport facility in the port of Gdansk, which receives tanker shipments of oil and other petroleum products. They were also found near an area where there are plans to build a new floating natural gas terminal.
The Maritime Search and Rescue Service SAR told CBS News that the rescue operation involved police officers, firefighters and medical personnel. SAR spokesman Rafal Goeck described the rescue operation – just before 2am local time – as “rather unnatural”.
“We got a signal from the fire department about a ship in trouble,” Goeck told CBS News, adding that conditions were rough at the time, with high winds and high seas. The air temperature was only about 43 degrees Fahrenheit and the water was closer to 37.
“I have never experienced anything like this in my 12-year career with the Maritime Search and Rescue Service,” he said. “It’s quite unnatural to dive in these conditions.”
The red 4-meter pleasure boat broke down about three nautical miles north of Gdansk. The ship’s crew said they struggled for six hours to get it going again. There was no explanation why they had waited so long, in the dark and cold on rough seas, to call for help.
Police officials determined that the men were not authorized to operate the boat and had not been given permission to dive. According to Polish media reports, only one of the men had a Spanish passport, while the others offered only verbal identification.
Another wrinkle was their statement: The men claimed to have been looking for amber. Although the Baltic Sea is famous for its huge amounts of amber, searching for it in the dark is unlikely to be a successful strategy.
Veteran amber hunters interviewed by Polish media said one more thing was off: the men had a submersible scooter that quickly towed divers through the water – something that wouldn’t help when hunting small objects on the seabed, especially since the propeller of such a device lifts debris from the bottom, reducing visibility.
Officers initially saw nothing suspicious in the men diving at night near critical infrastructure without permits and atypical amber hunting equipment, and local police did not pursue the case and released the men without further questioning.
They all reportedly left Poland.
Cezary Przepiorka, deputy captain of the port of Gdansk, told Polish media that only one of the men had formal identification and that the phone numbers offered by the divers were incorrect or non-functional.
Police and the Polish Internal Security Agency have launched an investigation into the matter. According to various reports, the Central Investigation Bureau of the Police of Poland, a unit dealing with organized crime, is the lead agency. The agency declined CBS News’ request for comment on the matter.
The incident has raised serious concerns about protecting vital national energy infrastructure as Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine continues to drive energy prices skyrocketing. A thorough investigation can be expected, especially so soon after the sabotage attack on the Nordstream 1 submarine gas pipeline a few weeks ago.
European and US officials have strongon the pipeline.
The Polish port of Gdansk, vital to the country’s energy supply, is only about 20 miles from Russia’s distant, equally strategic western territory of Kaliningrad.