Danish Police Arrest Russian Seafarers Working on Construction Project

Russian seafarers arrested working in Denmark
Fehmarnbelt construction project (Femern A/S photo)

Published Mar 10, 2021 5:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Danish police arrested 28 Russian sailors working aboard two workboats involved in a construction project building an underwater road and tunnel in the Ferner Baelt to connect Germany and southern Denmark. The arrests, which were related to a union dispute and “illegal work,” are separate from the controversial Nord Stream 2 project, which is also being carried out by Russian contractors in Danish waters.

“It is our assessment that the 28 seafarers have been employed in work that requires a work permit in Denmark. They have not had that, and thus they have violated the Aliens Act,” said police inspector Peter Compen, who is head of the aliens control department in the South Zealand and Lolland-Falster Police in Denmark.

BAT-Kartellet, the Danish union for construction workers, has been complaining about foreign contractors working on the projects and calling for the government to investigate. “We have repeatedly warned that neither the labor clauses nor the control measures on the Fehmarnbelt connection are strong and effective enough. It is now completely indisputably proven,” said the union in a statement after the arrests were announced. “This morning's arrests of 28 illegal workers on the Fehmarnbelt connection must cause all alarm bells to ring.”

The union noted that there had already been injunctions and immediate injunctions from the Danish Working Environment Authority on the construction site. “It is simply not good enough that we see so many serious offenses and breaches of contract so early in the construction process,” the union said offering to work with the minister of transportation and the company overseeing the project to correct the labor violations.

In announcing the arrests, the police said that the case has been under investigation for a long time in close collaboration with the Danish agency responsible for international recruitment.
The case has been handed over to the Danish Immigration Service which will assess each individual and decide whether they should be deported and have a future entry ban.

In January, the Trump administration decided to place sanctions on the Russian vessels operating in the Danish waters working to complete Gazprom's Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Efforts to block the completion of the controversial project had caused other companies including DNV to abandon their participation. 

This week’s dispute, however, appears to be a labor dispute led in part by the construction workers’ union that has sought to block the use of foreign contract labor.