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In Race to Completion, Second Pipelay Vessel Joins Nord Stream 2

Gerd Fahrenhorst cc by 40
Pipe for Nord Stream 2 at the port of Mukran (Gerd Fahrenhorst / CC BY 4.0)

Published Mar 5, 2021 9:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

A second Russian pipelay vessel is set to join Gazprom's Nord Stream 2 project, defying U.S. sanctions in a race to completion. 

The DP-enabled pipelay vessel Akademik Cherskiy will complete sea trials and then begin work on the pipelay string in Danish waters, the project consortium told Russian media in a statement. According to Argus, Denmark's government confirms that the work on the first parallel string will begin by the end of the month. 

AIS tracking provided by Pole Star shows that Akademik Cherskiy got under way from Wismar on March 4 and is now holding position in the Baltic off Sassnitz, about 15 nm west of the Russian pipelay barge Fortuna. The Fortuna is already on site and working, with less than 100 miles of line left and 93 percent of the project completed.

The Biden administration's recent status report on Nord Stream 2 names the Fortuna and her owner, KVT-RUS, as designated entities with a role in the sanctioned project. However, both were already blacklisted during the Trump administration, and the designation is not expected to have a material effect. (Akademik Cherskiy is not sanctioned at present.)

President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken have stated that they oppose the completion of Nord Stream 2, but Blinken is said to oppose unilateral sanctions against the Western European firms involved in supporting the project. If completed, Nord Stream 2 would allow Russia to bypass overland pipeline networks in U.S.-allied Ukraine and Poland, providing a direct supply of gas to Western Europe. 

The threat of U.S. sanctions have had an impact on some participants. Certification body DNV pulled out of its role the project in January, citing the risk of sanctions exposure. On Thursday, the German utility Uniper said that it would not provide the pipeline project with additional financing in the future; the firm recently told investors that it had issued loans totaling about $850 million for Nord Stream 2 so far. The German contractor Bilfinger has also pulled out of a contract to supply safety and process control equipment for the shoreside gas receiving station at Lubmin, Germany.

Despite U.S. opposition, the Danish Maritime Authority says that it expects that the pipeline will be completed by the end of September, according to Reuters.