With German Segment Finished, Nord Stream 2 Inches Towards Completion

The pipelay barge Fortuna (undated file image courtesy MRTS)

By The Maritime Executive 12-28-2020 04:13:00

Gazprom's Nord Stream 2 pipeline project has completed pipelay work in German waters, finishing a short 1.4 nautical mile stretch off the port of Stralsund, the project's backers announced Monday. 

The Russian pipelay barge involved in laying the segment, the Fortuna, is now anchored off Wismar, about 70 nautical miles from the previous work area. The completion of the German segment means that the only section of the pipeline that remains to be completed is a stretch of roughly 50 nautical miles through Danish waters. The remaining 93 percent of its length - under the Baltic between Denmark and Russia - has already been laid. 

Denmark has already provided permitting approval for the remaining pipelay work, and the project has political backing from the German government. The only obstacle between Gazprom and the project's completion is the possibility of additional American sanctions. 

In December 2019, Nord Stream 2 lost its pipelay contractor when the U.S. Congress passed language that would penalize any shipowner involved in providing pipelay services to the project. The repositioning and refitting needed to substitute Russian-owned, Russian-flagged pipelay vessels took months. 

In November 2020, class society and certification provider DNV GL backed out of providing "verification activities linked to vessels with equipment serving the Nord Stream 2 project," citing concerns that American sanctions might affect its work. 

The U.S. National Defense Authorization Act for FY2021 (NDAA) contains new sanctions language targeting Nord Stream 2. If enacted into law, it would impose sanctions on entities that help upgrade the Russian pipelay vessels involved in the project; entities that help test, inspect or certify the pipeline; and entities that provide insurance or reinsurance for the project. The NDAA was passed by the House and Senate on December 14, but it was vetoed by President Donald Trump on December 23. The House voted Monday night to override the president's veto, passing the motion by 322-87, and the Senate will take a vote on the question later in the week. 

If the NDAA enters into law, it would create new obstacles for Nord Stream 2. Last week, the Kremlin acknowledged that new American sanctions could slow down the pipeline's completion. "Of course, this can complicate [Nord Stream 2], but at the same time, our European partners and we are interested in the project's implementation so that it is finalized," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in a press conference Thursday. 

In an interview Sunday, Peskov gave a stronger critique of the NDAA's sanctions language. "This is an absolutely uncovered cowboy attack or a hostile takeover . . . How else could this be called?" he told state-owned TV outlet Rossiya-1.