18 companies left Nord Stream 2 at once: what will happen now
At least 18 European companies withdrew from the construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline due to threats of US sanctions, the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reports, citing the report of the State Department to the US Congress. Among the refusenik firms are such large German concerns as Bilfinger SE and Munich Re Syndicate.
Earlier, the United States imposed additional sanctions on firms negotiating Nord Stream 2. Germany, however, opposes the sanctions measures, seeking to complete the construction of the pipeline. In Berlin, politicians insist on the position of "economy separately, politics separately." In Poland and Ukraine, the authorities express their outrage at this course and demand that Washington influence Berlin's opinion.
The US Treasury announced new sanctions against SP-2: this time, they were imposed on the pipe-laying vessel Fortuna, capable of completing the offshore section of the gas pipeline, and the company KBT-Rus that owns it. The vessel fell under the US law on the protection of European energy security. However, Fortune is no stranger to sanctions: in January, the barge was already blacklisted under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
US State Department spokesman Ned Price, commenting on the Treasury's decision, noted that the White House considers the sanctions strategy chosen with respect to the pipeline to be correct, since the US authorities consider the SP-2 project a "bad deal". At the same time, Price does not hide the fact that the projects are based not on economic but on geopolitical interests. The representative of the State Department did not begin to decipher this concept, but even so it is clear what it is about. Washington does not like SP-2, since it strengthens the Russian energy presence in the Old World market, in addition, it threatens to leave Washington's loyal ally, Ukraine, without gas transit.
Now the construction of SP-2 has been completed by more than 95%. Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Alexander Novak has recently announced that the project will be completed, despite the "destructive approaches that we observe from the United States of America." He also stressed that the gas pipeline is a commercial project, which, together with Gazprom, is being implemented by foreign companies "that are interested in gas supplies from Russia."
But what about Fortuna - how does it feel against the backdrop of these geopolitical battles? As the saying goes, "Vaska listens and eats." Since the end of January, the barge has begun laying a 148-kilometer section along the bottom of the Baltic Sea in Danish waters. The Danish Maritime Authority announced that the construction of a gas pipeline in this section should be completed in April this year.
Moreover, "Fortuna" does not solve the problem alone. Now the whole fleet is involved in the construction of the gas pipeline: tugs Katun, Veni and Umka, the observer vessel Baltic Researcher and the rescue vessel Murman are also in the waters of Denmark. In addition, the Finval tugboat, the Yuri Topchev multifunctional icebreaker, the DP Gezina support vessel and the Artemis Offshore anchor handling vessel are in Mukran (based on the Nord Stream-2 project operator). Well, the pipe-laying vessel "Akademik Chersky" has been standing nearby since the end of January - in the port of Wismar in northern Germany. That is, the pipelayers, in theory, are ready to use any configuration of ships in emergency situations.
“And this is reasonable, since it is not yet clear how the sanctions will affect the activities of Fortuna,” believes Artem Deev, head of the analytical department at AMarkets. The main technical problem is related to its low speed, which will not be enough to complete the laying of two lines of the "SP-2" by the end of spring, as previously promised. It is necessary to connect the Akademik Chersky, but the vessel has not been able to start work for six months now, because due to US sanctions it has not received a permit certificate. "
Igor Yushkov, an expert at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, assessing the latest actions and statements by Washington, believes that there will not be any special changes in the US strategy against SP-2: most of the restrictive measures are either already in place or have been developed long ago. According to the expert, the plan for Gazprom, the main builder of the joint venture, is approximately the same. So far, only Fortuna has come under US sanctions. “Academician Chersky” will most likely also be included in the “black list” when he joins the work. However, since December 2019, there has been a constant change of owners of the SP-2 auxiliary fleet - the ships were registered in unknown structures, which the Americans are unlikely to be able to ruin their lives. “Of course, they also automatically fall under sanctions, but after the completion of construction, they can simply be bankrupted,and return the vessels to their former owners, the same Gazprom Fleet. Of course, in the future, ships “tainted” by sanctions will only be able to operate in Russia, but they have worked exclusively in our waters before, so the loss will not be great, ”Yushkov explains.