Russia has ships to complete Nord Stream 2 pipeline without European help
Russia says the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will be finished despite all the challenges, after Swiss-Dutch company Allseas decided to stop its works on the project in the Baltic Sea, under the threat of US sanctions.
Over the weekend, the engineering company reportedly withdrew its ships, which had been engaged in the laying of the last section of the pipeline. The pull-out occurred shortly after US President Donald Trump signed into law the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which provides for harsh sanctions on foreign contractors involved in the project.
However, two of Allseas’ vessels - Solitaire and Pioneering Spirit - were still in the waters of the Baltic Sea as of Monday morning, according to ship tracking website Marine Traffic.
“Despite all of the factors that have been working against the project, we expect the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to be completed soon,” Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in an interview with Russia’s RBK broadcaster. The minister doubts that the US restrictions can fully stop the project, as it is already in the final stages and any fines or punitive measures from the US would cause discontent among its allies.
Russia has replacement vessels, but here is a catch
If Allseas decides to completely pull out of the project, Russia has a possible alternative to finish laying the multibillion underwater pipeline, which aims to ensure gas supplies to Europe. However, this could push back the eventual launch of the Nord Stream 2.
For example, Russian company MRTS has at least three pipelaying barges - Fortuna, Defender and Kapitan Bulagin. The former has been considered the main hope if the US actions spook Russia’s partners. The ship was added earlier this year to the list of vessels that can participate in the construction works.
Using one of those three ships could result in additional hurdles as they don’t have the dynamic positioning capabilities required by Denmark. Thus, they may be not allowed to work in the Danish section or Russia would have to get additional permits for them. This could be a tough task, given that Copenhagen delayed until the end of October the granting of permission to even start pipelaying works in its waters.
Another option could be the Akademik Cherskiy, a vessel owned by Russian energy major Gazprom. The pipelayer has all the necessary technical capabilities, including dynamic positioning, but it is currently stationed in Russia's Far East and would take up to two months to get to Danish waters.
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