dpa/GNA – The US government plans to impose sanctions on the Russian lay barge Fortuna on Tuesday for its involvement in the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline.
The US embassy in Berlin informed the German government of the move on Monday, a spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Economics told dpa. “We take note of this with regret,” she said.
The nearly complete Nord Stream 2 pipeline is set to double the amount of Russian natural gas carried to Germany via the Baltic Sea, with the aim of providing the country with affordable energy as it phases out coal and nuclear energy.
However, the United States under President Donald Trump has argued that the pipeline will increase Europe’s energy dependence on Russia.
So far, the US government had only threatened sanctions for the controversial gas pipeline, but had not yet imposed any. With the new punitive measures, Trump’s administration wants to implement the threat for the first time shortly before its term in office ends on Wednesday.
The US State Department initially did not comment when asked.
Joseph Giordono-Scholz, a spokesperson for the US embassy in Berlin, told dpa late Monday that this week’s arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny played a role in pushing ahead with the sanctions.
He said the arrest was another clear sign that Russia’s behaviour was not changing and that the US still hopes Germany will reassess its position on the pipeline.
The threat of sanctions prompted a Swiss company to pull its special vessel out of the area in late 2019. As a result, Nord Stream 2 had to bring in a different kind of ship, the Fortuna, which is moved or held in place by other vessels, requiring a new permit.
The Fortuna left the German port city of Wismar on Thursday and was situated in the Baltic Sea off Rostock by early Friday, according to the website vesselfinder.com.
Danish authorities had said work near the island of Bornholm would begin from Friday with the Fortuna’s participation.
After reaching its position in Danish waters, preparatory work and tests would begin, Nord Stream 2 has said, without giving an exact date.
The ship completed a 2.6-kilometre stretch of pipeline in December in the German exclusive economic zone (EEZ) following a one-and-a-half year break in construction, but the existing BSH permit expired at the end of the year.
This brings the combined length of the twin pipeline laid on the sea bed to over 2,300 kilometres, with around 150 kilometres left, or 75 kilometres on each parallel line – around 120 kilometres of which are in Danish waters and 30 of which in German waters.
At the beginning of the year, a new US law came into force that expanded the threat of sanctions to companies that provide services to vessels laying the Nord Stream 2 pipe and companies that carry out pipeline testing, inspection or certification activities.
The Norway-based quality assurance company DNV GL on Monday confirmed it was withdrawing from the project, saying “as things stand now, DNV GL cannot issue a certificate when the pipeline is completed.”