Photo: Akademik Cherskiy; Source: Gazprom Flot

Russian pipe-layer stops near Nord Stream 2 pipeline site

A Russian pipe-laying vessel has stopped near the construction site of the Gazprom-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea.

According to a Reuters article, AIS data from Saturday puts the Akademik Cherskiy pipelayer near the Nord Stream 2 construction site. The Russian pipe-laying vessel has stopped north of Poland and Germany.

Gas giant Gazprom stated recently that it would resume pipe-laying work on the stalled 2.6-kilometre part before the end of 2020. At the time the Russian company did not disclose which vessel would be conducting the work.

Work on the pipeline was halted last December when pipe-laying company Allseas suspended operations after U.S. sanctions targeted companies providing vessels to lay the pipes.

The potential resumption of activity comes after outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration has staunchly opposed the pipeline, lost to president-elect Joe Biden in the presidential election earlier this month.

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The media outlet also stated that the U.S. ambassador to Berlin called on the German government and the European Union to put a temporary halt to construction work on the pipeline to send a signal to Moscow.

The pipeline, which Washington says compromises European energy security, has become a major bone of contention between Russia and the West and the relations between the two sunk to post-Cold War lows.

This pipeline is not just an economic project, but the Kremlin’s political tool to bypass Ukraine and divide Europe“, Robin Quinville, acting U.S. ambassador to Berlin, told Germany’s Handelsblatt daily.

It is worth noting that the maritime authority in the German city of Stralsund did inform shippers that there will be pipeline-laying activities from 5-31 December in the Baltic Sea area where Nord Stream 2 will make landfall.

The $11 billion Nord Stream 2 project, led by Russian state energy company Gazprom and aimed at doubling the existing Nord Stream pipeline’s capacity, is more than 90 per cent complete. There are five other partners in the project – Uniper, Wintershall Dea, Shell, OMV, and Engie.

However, the annual U.S. defence policy bill unveiled by lawmakers late last Thursday contains sanctions that backers say will halt Nord Stream 2.

Although the construction of the 1,230-kilometre pipeline is nearly finished, the small section in Germany currently under contention needs to be completed as well as the final stretch of about 120 kilometres in Danish waters.

The project is designed as two parallel 48-inch lines, roughly 1,200 kilometres long, each starting southwest of St. Petersburg and ending at German coast, Greifswald. It is designed to boost the amount of Russian gas that can be shipped to Europe without having to go through Ukraine.

The gas pipelines will have the capacity to transport 55 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Russian gas a year to the EU, for at least 50 years.