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In defiance of US sanctions, construction on German section of Nord Stream 2 to resume in December

Nord Stream - two pipes are welded together on the Castoro Sei pipelaying vessel. (Bair175/Wikimedia Commons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Construction on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany will resume in early December after a one-year pause due to U.S. sanctions.

The company Nord Stream 2 AG said on November 28 that undersea pipe-laying work will resume on a 2.6-kilometer section of each of the gas pipeline’s branches within Germany’s exclusive economic zone.

German broadcaster NDR 1 Radio MV reported that construction will resume on December 5, citing an announcement by the Baltic Sea Waterways and Shipping Office in Stralsund.

In December 2019, construction on Nord Stream 2 was suspended following U.S. sanctions on the project, which will double Russian natural gas deliveries to Germany.

The sanctions targeted any vessel building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, forcing Switzerland-based pipe-laying company Allseas to suspend operations shortly before its completion.

The U.S. Congress is considering another bill that would widen the scope of sanctions to include any individual or entity providing insurance, technical certification, or welding services for the project.

It is unclear what pipe-laying ship will be involved in finishing Nord Stream 2, which still has 16 kilometers left in German waters and another 60 kilometers in the Danish section to be completed.

The pipe-laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy was expected to finish the gas pipeline, but according to Marine Traffic tracking services the Russian-flagged ship left the German project hub of Mukran and is off the coast of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

According to NDR 1 Radio MV, it is unclear if the vessel has received the required certification from the Danish government. The Norwegian certifier already announced a partial withdrawal from the project related to any ships, but not the pipeline itself.

Meanwhile, the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where the pipeline ends, reportedly decided this week to create a public trust under the control of the state premier’s office to protect companies working on Nord Stream 2 from U.S. sanctions.

Citing insiders, NDR 1 Radio MV said top officials consider the special vehicle a “clever legal gimmick” to skirt around U.S. sanctions.

Sanctions against Nord Stream 2 have been a source of friction in U.S.-German relations, with Berlin accusing Washington of applying extraterritorial restrictions on a sovereign project.

The U.S. government wants to prevent the pipeline from being completed, saying it will strengthen Russia’s energy hold on Europe and undercut Ukraine’s role as a transit country for Russian gas.

Nord Stream 2 is a $10 billion project led by Russian gas giant Gazprom, with half of the funding provided by Germany’s Uniper and BASF’s Wintershall, Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell, Austria’s OMV and Engie.

Russia initially expected to complete the pipeline in early 2020. After the sanctions on vessels were passed, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped the pipeline would be completed by early 2021.