From this weekend, German transport authorities expect the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea. The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) has approved the resumption of laying for December. Nord Stream 2 AG, which has had to suspend work for nearly a year due to threats of sanctions from the US, wants to start – although the US has recently extended its threats to participating producers and service providers to a wider group of companies. This follows a bill on the US defense budget agreed by the two chambers of Congress on Thursday.
Some of the approximately 120 companies can now hope for government support in an emergency. While U.S. government officials specifically warn individual companies against continuing to participate in the construction of a double-fiber pipeline between Russia and Germany, media reports that Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is preparing to strengthen domestic companies against the consequences of US sanctions.
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As stated, inter alia, in the ‘Ostsee-Zeitung’ and the ‘GDR’, the non-profit foundation is to take companies under its roof and support them, inter alia, in research, cooperation and further education. It was not known how the protection or compensation should work in detail. The purpose of the foundation is to protect the climate and the environment. The pipeline, which is intended to transport a more climate-friendly energy source compared to coal, is classified as a contribution to climate protection.
Time is the basis for establishment
Such a state foundation could take advantage of the loophole created by the new US defense budget proposal. It stipulates that sanctions will apply to companies, but not to European governments and their bodies. It would now depend on whether this definition includes German state government bodies.
With the immediate start of work on the Baltic Sea, time is running out. According to these reports, the country’s preparations for the foundation have progressed. The State Chancellery in Schwerin has not yet commented on this topic. The spokesman did not want to confirm or deny Tagesspiegel’s information.
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It is certain that the Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Manuela Schwesig (SPD), is one of the most resilient advocates of the gas pipeline project, which provides sales and jobs in her state. The board of the Swiss-based oil company is headed by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD), who – like Nord Stream 2 CEO Matthias Warnig – has a long-standing alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Schwesig assured Warnig in an August interview: “We are extremely upset at the US’s attempted blackmail.”
Schwesig supports local ports
In September, Schwesig paid a demonstration visit to the port of Sassnitz-Mukran on the island of Rügen, the most important logistics base for laying. Three U.S. senators previously personally threatened port company executives with “devastating legal and economic sanctions.”
Schwesig made a similar visit to the industrial port of Lubmin near Greifswald in October. There, a mainland Nord 2 station is waiting to be connected to an unfinished pipeline. Russian gas will arrive right next to the existing Nord Stream pipeline.
The Nord Stream 2 server still lacks 75 kilometers of pipes, 16 of which are in the German Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). BSH approval is valid from Saturday for the German VHZ, initially until the end of December. It is probable, but not yet confirmed, that the work will be taken over by the Russian ship “Akademik Tscherski”. The parent company Nord Stream 2 Gazprom had the ship rebuilt specifically for use in the Baltic Sea.
Environmentalists are also opposed to further construction
Environmentalists deny that the ship could even work in the Baltic Sea in the winter months. Under the current legal situation, anchors holding a ship in position during laying may not be used from September to May. This is due to the fact that this process is associated with “significant environmental damage, such as sediment turbulence” in a sensitive natural area of the Baltic Sea, said the German Environmental Protection Agency. However, according to BSH, the installation is covered by an earlier extended permit until the end of December. From the point of view of nature protection, they are justifiable in this period. A new permit is required only for work from January to May.
In the meantime, however, US sanction threats in the ‘Akademik Tscherski’ case had an effect: Norwegian testing and certification service provider DNV GL announced that it had stopped working on ships involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2. Company spokesman justified collapse by threat (PEESA), which the US Congress wants to expand as planned in the draft defense budget.
According to its own statements, DNV GL was previously responsible at Nord Stream 2 for monitoring compliance with quality specifications during installation work. The company is global and has something to lose in the event of US sanctions. For similar reasons, the special transport company Allseas withdrew in December 2019, and its pipeline vessels are active around the world. Since then, the laying work for Nord Stream 2 has been suspended (with DPA)