Nord Stream 2 Pipelay Operations Resume
Despite U.S. sanctions, the Russian pipelay barge Fortuna is forging ahead with work to finish the final 80-nautical mile stretch of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Danish authorities told Bloomberg on Sunday that the vessel is on site and conducting "preparatory work" before resuming operations.
The project is 93 percent complete, and the last segment has been delayed for more than a year by U.S. sanctions on participants. Pipelay operator Allseas, certification body DNV and insurer Zurich Insurance have all bowed out under the threat of U.S. penalties, but the lead developer - Russian energy company Gazprom - has tenaciously pursued the pipeline's completion.
Nord Stream 2 has all permitting in place to move forward in Danish and German waters, and it has enthusiastic backing from Germany's top political leaders. Russian natural gas offers an inexpensive alternative to coal and nuclear power, which Germany is attempting to wind down in coming years.
The European Parliament has joined the U.S. in calling for a halt to the pipeline's construction, though for different reasons. European members of parliament are concerned by the Russian government's interactions with opposition political leader Alexei Navalny, who was recently poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent while traveling in Siberia. Navalny recovered at a hospital in Germany, and he flew home to Russia on January 17. He was immediately arrested by Russian police and sentenced to 30 days in prison, leading to street protests, a nonbinding resolution in the EU Parliament and statements of opposition from European leaders.
The Navalny affair has not deterred German Chancellor Angela Merkel from seeing Nord Stream 2 completed.
"My basic attitude has not yet changed in such a way that I would say that the project shouldn't happen," Merkel said at a press conference on Thursday. "We will of course speak with the new American administration. We must also talk about what economic relationships with Russia in the gas sector are acceptable and what aren't. And it's not as if there were absolutely no trade relations between the United States of America and Russia in the oil sector, for example."
Merkel's expected successor, German CDU party leader Armin Laschet, said Monday that he would not reconsider his support for Nord Stream 2. "No," he told Reuters.