Because Denmark did not approve the original route of Nord Stream 2 through its territorial waters, the second Baltic pipeline will cross the first pipeline twice, which already supplies Russian gas to Germany. This will complicate construction, as specialized ships are needed to lay one pipeline on top of the other, and these works for Nord Stream 2 are also under U.S. sanctions.
Copenhagen has made the construction of Nord Stream 2 difficult by delaying permitting and choosing the most inconvenient route for the project. In 2017, the project operator submitted a construction application to the Danish Energy Agency (DEA). It proposed laying the pipeline parallel to Nord Stream in Danish territorial waters south of the island of Bornholm. The DEA, however, was in no hurry to respond, and in the meantime, Denmark itself passed a law allowing the construction of gas pipelines to be blocked for national security purposes in its territorial waters. As a result, in August 2018, the project operator was forced to submit an alternative application to bypass the island from the north side. But it was not granted either. In February 2019, Poland and Denmark unexpectedly quickly settled a long-standing territorial dispute and established the boundaries of their economic waters in the Baltic Sea. This made it possible to lay Nord Stream 2 south of Bornholm, which the Danish Energy Agency reported to Nord Stream 2 AG and requested an application for this route. In October 2019, it was approved.
The southern route is inconvenient not only because it is longer than the first two, but also because it requires crossing the existing Nord Stream twice. The thing is that according to the project, the second Baltic Sea pipeline was laid in the waters of Russia, Finland, Sweden and Germany to the north of the first one. They lie almost a kilometer apart. And in Denmark, the approved Nord Stream 2 route goes south to bypass the country’s territorial waters around the island of Bornholm this time. As a result, it crosses Nord Stream twice: in Sweden’s economic zone and southwest of Bornholm to return to the previously planned route and connect to the German section, which is almost complete.
Alternatively, Nord Stream 2 AG says it can apply post-lay trenching to stabilize the pipeline. But the text of the expanded sanctions also prohibits companies to provide trenching services and it is unclear whether this applies to post-layering.
As reported by the media, since February 10, in the port of Mukran, which is the base of the “Nord Stream – 2” in Germany, there are four barges with opening bottom, a supply vessel and a dredging vessel. Most of them have already been involved in the construction of the pipeline, and this time they can work for Nord Stream 2 as well as for a very different project – digging trenches for cables from wind farms in the Baltic Sea. Almost all of the vessels are owned by the Dutch Bokalis.
In late December 2019, the U.S. imposed the first sanctions against Nord Stream 2 – against the owners of the pipelayers who will provide ships to the project, and the Swiss Allseas withdrew from the project. After that, Gazprom began assembling a fleet of Russian vessels to complete the project. In order to reduce the risk of sanctions, some of the vessels had new owners – unknown small companies. Thus, Nord Stream 2 will be able to get two pipelayers Akademik Chersky and Fortuna and several supply vessels. The project is also serviced by the fleet of the Marine Rescue Service. Whether Gazprom has rock-laying vessels or the crossing of one gas pipeline through another with a post-laying trench does not contradict the sanctions is unknown. The project operator and Gazprom itself do not comment on the situation regarding sanctions.
Today, the German publication Der Spiegel reported that the pipe-laying barge Fortuna will resume laying Nord Stream 2 in Danish waters next week. On Sunday, February 7, a storm broke out in the Baltic Sea and the Fortuna pipe-laying barge stopped the completion work which it had started the day before. The ship managed to lay 550 meters of the pipeline.
Even though the weather has calmed down in the Baltic Sea around the island of Bornholm, the Fortuna barge is still not restarting construction, according to the navigational portals. The pipe-laying vessel Umka, the Baltic Explorer and the Veni are all supply vessels away from the barge. The rest of the supply vessels are either offshore or in the port of Mukran, which is the project base in Germany and is located 50 miles from the worksite. The barge has not been working in the past few days, but has been receiving cargo from supply vessels.