Was Russian sabotage behind railway line wreck that cost fish companies $370 million in losses?

Editorial Staff

The 76-day closure of the track resulted in losses nearing $370 million for fish transport alone.

Investigations into a train derailment on the Ofoten line, a critical artery for northern Norwegian salmon exports, have intensified amid suspicions of possible Russian sabotage.

The 43-kilometer long line runs from Narvik in Norway to Riksgränsen on the Norway-Sweden border. It’s electrified, single-track, and features seven stations.

More than 250,000 tons of seafood are sent annually via the route, according to the Norwegian Seafood Federation.

As well as transporting salmon, the line serves to carry iron ore from Sweden to Narvik, with up to 12 daily trips operated by Malmtrafik. CargoNet operates container trains, while Vy Tåg runs passenger services, including a night train to Stockholm.

The derailment, which occurred in December last year, involved ten wagons on the Swedish side of the border between Norway and Sweden.

While there were no reported injuries, the damage incurred was extensive, prompting the closure of the affected section to both passenger and freight traffic.

The Swedish Transport Administration’s inspection revealed significant damage to switches, rails, catenary, and a tunnel, with approximately ten kilometers of track affected.

Now it has been revealed that Swedish intelligence services, including the security service Säpo, are examining the possibility of foreign interference in the derailment as part of a series of acts of sabotage to destabilise Europe, including covert bombings, arson and attacks on infrastructure, the Financial Times (FT) has claimed.

“Säpo has an ongoing, routine collaboration with the police force on a number of cases, primarily when it cannot be ruled out that a foreign power is involved. One of those collaborations is on the investigation around Malmbanan,” Säpo press officer Fredrik Hultgren-Friberg told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

Part of a pattern?

In 2022, internet cables off Shetland were severed, leaving 22,870 people without basic access to internet, mobile phones, landlines or cash machines. Experts said that Russian agents operating from fake fishing boats were “almost certainly” behind the attack.

Meanwhile, Lithuania and other countries have accused Russia of being responsible for a recent uptick in GPS jamming against civilian aircraft.

On April 18, it was announced that German authorities had arrested two German-Russian nationals suspected of planning a military sabotage plot on behalf of Russian intelligence.

Further derailments

The Malmbanan derailment is not an isolated incident. Other recent train derailments in Sweden are also under scrutiny for potential foreign involvement. Two incidents on December 17, 2023, and February 26, 2024, on Malmbanan are among those being investigated. Derailments in Gnarp on April 12 and Linköping on April 14 have raised further suspicions.

The consequences of these derailments have been significant for Norwegian fish producers, with hundreds of millions in losses incurred due to transport disruptions.

According to Sjømat Norge, the 76-day closure of the track resulted in losses nearing NOK four billion ($370 million) for fish transport alone.


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