Nord Stream 2 to Move Ahead Without Allseas

Pioneering Spirit (bottom) and Solitaire at the completion of pipelay operations for the Finnish segment of Nord Stream 2, August 2019 (Allseas)

Published Dec 30, 2019 8:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Swiss-based pipelay and decommissioning company Allseas says that it has no plans to restart work on Gazprom's Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a giant expansion project designed to carry more Russian gas to European markets. The Allseas pipelay vessels Pioneering Spirit and Solitaire - the largest and second-largest ships of their class, respectively - were a key component of the project's execution, but the U.S. Congress' imposition of sanctions on Nord Stream 2 have effectively ended Allseas' participation. 

The enacted version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 - the annual "must-pass" U.S. defense funding bill - requires the U.S. Treasury to identify top executives and controlling shareholders in any firm providing pipelay vessels to Gazprom's Nord Stream 2 or TurkStream projects. If covered vessel activity continues after a 30-day wind-down period, the designated individuals would be personally banned from the United States and the Treasury would move to freeze their U.S.-domiciled assets. The provision applies almost exclusively to Allseas, which worked on both affected projects. 

On December 21, in anticipation of the enactment of the NDAA, Allseas said that it had suspended its Nord Stream 2 pipelay activities. The firm said that it would proceed to comply with the legislation’s wind-down provision and was expecting guidance on the regulatory, technical and environmental details from U.S. agencies. 

Russian state-owned outlet TASS reported Sunday that Allseas has no plans to resume work in the near future. Allseas' fleet is departing the Baltic and preparing for redeployment to other projects. Gazprom hopes to complete the project with Russian assets, which would not be affected by U.S. sanctions. 

Nord Stream 2 is a twin pipeline with two lins in parallel, each pipe four feet wide. The Russian pipelay barge Fortuna is capable of handling pipe of that size, but does not have the extreme S-lay holding capacity that sets Allseas' vessels apart. Fortuna also relies upon anchors to hold position, not the maneuverable DP systems used by Solitaire and Pioneering Spirit. Denmark requires the use of DP-enabled vessels for pipelay operations in its waters. 

TASS reported that another Russian pipelay vessel, the Gazprom-owned Akademik Cherskiy, has the needed DP system but is currently stationed in the Far East, about two months' sailing time away.