Despite U.S. Sanctions, Gazprom Resumes Work on Nord Stream 2

The pipelay barge Fortuna (file image courtesy MRTS)

Published Dec 11, 2020 10:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

Despite extensive U.S. efforts to block further work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Russian energy company Gazprom has resumed construction on the controversial project, which will allow it to deliver more natural gas to Western Europe while bypassing pipeline networks in Poland and Ukraine. 

The Trump administration brought work on Nord Stream 2 to a halt in December 2019 when it imposed sanctions on all pipelay vessel operators involved in the project (and their top executives). The measure applied exclusively to Allseas, the offshore services firm behind the world's two largest pipelay vessels, Pioneering Spirit and Solitaire. Allseas halted work before the sanctions penalties took effect, avoiding liability but bringing further construction to a stop.

Over the months that followed, Gazprom mobilized two Russian-flagged pipelay vessels to the site, setting the stage for a resumption of work. However, the U.S. added new sanctions measures targeting insurers and certification bodies with involvement in Nord Stream 2, prompting Norwegian class society DNV GL to back out of its role in certifying quality control on board Gazprom's pipelayers.  

Despite these setbacks, the Russian pipelay barge Fortuna has now resumed work on the line in German waters, the German Waterways and Shipping Authority Stralsund says. The authority issued a notice to mariners warning of active pipelay activity just offshore, and this week Gazprom confirmed that it is laying a short 2.6 km stretch of line in shallow water. The work represents a small but symbolic fraction of the 160 kilometer segment that remains unbuilt. The majority of the remaining work is in Danish waters. 

“We have both the program to implement the project, as well as specific steps that should be taken,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, speaking to reporters in Moscow on Thursday. “We are also well aware that the United States of America won’t stop trying to prevent Russia from implementing not only this project, but also its foreign policy and international activities in general."