Denmark, which Ukrainians and other opponents of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline saw for many months as the main hope for halting or at least slowing the project down, has finally allowed Russian pipelaying ships to work on its waters.
Denmark was the last country on the pipeline route that did not issue a permit for its construction and "surrendered" only in late October last year when, as it turns out, it became a real "lifeline" for Gazprom.
The country cared greatly about the environmental component of the project but has finally allowed the laying of pipes, which is dangerous not only for marine life, but also for people and property.
MINES ARE NOT SCARY
No, we did not think that Copenhagen delayed its permits for so long because of some special love for Ukraine. It is clear that the Kingdom cared only about its interests. It is all the more unclear what caused the decision of the Danish Energy Agency on July 6 to allow the use of pipelaying vessels with anchors. Previously, such a permit was not issued due to WWII chemical weapons dumped in this area of the Baltic Sea (about 50,000 tonnes of chemical munitions are scattered around the sea!) so bottom trawling, anchoring and seabed intervention were associated with considerable risk.
The agency now claims that Denmark is obliged to allow the construction of transit pipelines, taking into account the requirements of safety, resources and environmental protection. They say the route allegedly passes outside the area where trawling, the use of anchors and work on the seabed are not recommended due to the danger posed by buried chemical weapons stockpiles.
The decision, as it was explained, was made in response to a request from the operating company Nord Stream 2 AG in accordance with the law on the continental shelf and on the basis of Copenhagen's obligations under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
AKADEMIK, OSTAP AND IVAN
Thus, in fact, nothing prevents Gazprom from laying its pipeline to Germany. Russia can complete it with its own ships, as the United States has announced sanctions against all European companies that will use their ships for this purpose.
Russian ships have already come.
The Akademik Cherskiy, a pipelayer that left the distant port city of Nakhodka shortly after the highly specialized dynamic-position vessels - the Italian Saipem and the Swiss-Dutch Allseas, which ceased operations immediately after the first U.S. sanctions. The Akademik has long been staying in the German port of Mukran. The Fortuna pipelayer came to the German port earlier.
On July 7, literally the next day (what an amazing coincidence), new Gazpromflot ships – the Ostap Sheremeta and the Ivan Sidorenko – entered neutral waters. They also came from the Far East, from Vladivostok, having covered almost 12,500 miles in 50 days on the southern route - across the Indian Ocean - of course, accompanied by Russian Navy ships (in case of a sudden hostile provocation).
Thus, according to the Russian Federation, they currently have all the vessels needed for the completion of the project.
However, Rosneft, a company led by former German politician Gerhard Schroeder, has to wait as work can only begin in the autumn. There are several reasons for this. In particular, the project operator Nord Stream 2 AG must provide an updated work plan and agree on it with the Danish Energy Agency. It is also necessary to additionally equip the Akademik Cherskiy, which will take some time. In addition, July-August is spawning time for cod in the area of the island of Bornholm so all work there is prohibited.
Finally, the decision of the Danish Energy Agency can be appealed at the Danish Energy Board of Appeal until August 3.
The gas pipeline is 94% complete today: 2,200 out of 2,360 kilometers have been laid.
Only the intervention of a very strong opponent could hinder the construction of the gas pipeline. It actually happened: the Americans announced sanctions at the end of last year. But it happened too late.
Even before the sanctions, the pipes were laid on a deep-water section, where existing Russian ships would be helpless.
How fast will the construction work be completed? The first deadline - the end of last year - failed. In January, after talks in Moscow with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (who reiterated a few days ago that Germany seeks to complete the pipeline and is working in this direction), Russian President Vladimir Putin said the pipeline would be completed by the end of this year or in the first quarter of 2021.
TOO EARLY TO REJOICE
Given that about 160 kilometers of pipes have yet to be laid to complete the pipeline, the postponement of work to the fall will delay the launch of the pipeline.
So far, the German government and Nord Stream 2 lobbyists in the United States are rejoicing and actively trying to create the misconception that the completion of the project is inevitable, so that the United States is led to believe that its efforts are in vain and that it can finally lift its sanctions.
Ukraine must continue to call for new U.S. sanctions on Nord Stream 2. That's what Naftogaz has been doing for more than three years.
At Ukrinform's request to comment on Denmark's permit, the Ukrainian state oil and gas company said that not everything was as simple as it seemed for Gazprom.
"This will be a slow process for the Russians," said Vadym Glamazdin, an adviser to the Naftogaz of Ukraine CEO.
He noted that the Russians could not start laying pipes until September due to an appeal in Denmark and the cod spawning season. Next, the Fortuna will need at least three months to lay the last section of the pipeline, and the weather in November and December can cause a delay of up to two months.
Glamazdin is sure that, as was the case last year, U.S. Congress will approve new sanctions against Nord Stream 2 by the end of this year as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. These new sanctions have already been included in the draft of this document in the Senate.
The new sanctions will apply to any company that "facilitates" the laying of pipes for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. So if construction work is not completed in full by the end of the year, all European contractors, including insurance providers who in any way help Russian pipelaying vessels, will have to suspend their operations immediately once the sanctions have been approved by Congress. After all, this is exactly what happened in December 2019, when Allseas ceased operations immediately.
"In addition, the sanctions will cover a number of companies that provide 'licensing and certification' services needed for the launch of Nord Stream 2 after its physical completion. Without this certification, the pipeline cannot be used, even if it is completed," Glamazdin said.
So, not "everything has been lost" yet…
Olga Tanasiychuk, Berlin
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