Russian Nord Stream 2 pipe-laying ship begins work off Denmark

Connecting pipe sections above water. Two overlapping pipe ends of a pipe string have to be raised and cut on a pipelay ship before they can be welded together, 11 August 2019. [© Nord Stream 2 / Axel Schmidt]

The Russian ship tasked with completing the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline has begun work in waters off Denmark, the company said on Sunday (24 January).

The pipe-laying vessel “Fortuna”, owned by the Russian company KVT-RUS, had earlier been located, by marine tracing apps, some 28 kilometres south of the Danish island of Bornholm.

Several Russian support vessels were also in the immediate vicinity, according to the Vesselfinder and MarineTraffic applications.

“The laybarge Fortuna has started works in the construction corridor in the Danish EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), ahead of the resumption of the Nord Stream 2 construction,” the Nord Stream 2 company said in a statement.

“All works are performed in line with relevant permits,” the company added.

It is in this area, just outside Danish territorial waters but in the Scandinavian country’s exclusive economic zone, that the “Danish” sector of the pipeline passes, according to plans released by Nord Stream, which is majority owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom.

Nord Stream 2 is a €10 billion pipeline that will run beneath the Baltic Sea and is set to double Russian natural-gas shipments to Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

It has long been in the crosshairs of the United States, particularly by the former Trump administration which promoted US gas and openly criticised European countries for their reliance on energy from Russia.

Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states are also fiercely opposed to the pipeline, fearing it will increase Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, which Moscow could then use to exert political pressure.

US tells European companies they face sanctions risk on Nord Stream 2 pipeline

The US State Department this month told European companies which it suspects are helping to build Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that they face a risk of sanctions, a spokesperson confirmed.

The European Parliament on Friday passed a non-binding resolution urging Brussels to block to completion of the 1,200 kilometre-long pipeline.

Work on the massive project resumed in German waters in December after being suspended for nearly a year because of the threat of US sanctions.

Danish authorities had authorised Nord Stream to carry out works in its waters from January 15.

But the company had spoken of a “preparatory” phase in the operation, amid uncertainties over US policy during the transition between Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, who took office this month.

Last week, German officials said that the United States will place sanctions on the “Fortuna”.

Signed off by then president Trump in late 2019, the sanction measures threaten asset freezes and visa restrictions for companies involved in the construction.

The pipeline is almost complete, with most of the remaining pipe-laying work to be done in the waters off Denmark.

Nord Stream 2 is in fact two parallel pipelines. According to Denmark’s energy authority, 69.2 kilometres remains to be laid on one pipeline and 49.6 kilometres on the other.

Nord Stream 2: Europe stays quiet while US 'tramples over EU sovereignty'

With the recent adoption of its defence budget for 2021, the US has further tightened the screw on Nord Stream 2, threatening sanctions on EU companies involved in the Russian-backed pipeline and putting the future of the project further into uncertainty. EURACTIV France reports.

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