Nord Stream 2: US sanctions Russian ships

Being under charter for completing the last stretch of Gazprom's Nord Stream 2 project, vessel Fortuna now faces sanctions by the outgoing Trump administration.

This move can be labeled as a last-ditch effort by the outgoing U.S administration to make things hard for the project in the future.

The U.S Congress vowed to hold shipowners accountable if they were associated with the pipelay services to the project in any way. In December 2019, Allseas, a Swiss pipelay operator, immediately left Nord Stream 2 after the sanctions were passed by the US government. Consequently, Gazprom had to try hard to get a vessel that could do the job for them.

The U.S. deems the pipeline to be a strategic risk to its Eastern European allies, allowing Russia to circumvent their pipeline networks while still furnishing German customers with much-needed gas. It would also heighten overall European dependency on Russian natural gas as an energy source.

The pipeline project has become a collision point between Germany and the USA, with the latter pressing on Germany to buy more of U.S. LNG.

Costing a whooping €10bn or $12bn, the pipeline project is majorly undertaken by Gazprom, with companies like Wintershall, Uniper, and Royal Dutch Shell co-financing it.

According to FleetMon's AIS tracker, Fortuna is still anchored in the Baltic Sea near Rostock in Northern Germany.

US President-Elect Joe Biden previously showed hints that the sanctions against the Russian-German gas pipeline project are well justified. However, it remains to be seen how the new administration handles the project.

Nicholas Burns, adviser to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, said, “The Europeans must stop the construction of Nord Stream 2, and the Americans must suspend the sanctions. This will give the new U.S. administration the opportunity to confidentially and calmly speak with the German government and other countries involved," hinting that the Biden administration is likely to take a similar stand to the issue as the former one.

According to Gazprom, Nord Stream 2 is about 93 percent complete now.

A spokesperson for Germany's Ministry of Economy told Reuters that, "We’re taking note of the [U.S.] announcement with regret."

An interesting point to be noted is that Akademik Cherskiy, another Russian pipelay vessel involved in the project has not been hit by sanctions by the U.S Administration. Our AIS data indicates that the ship is currently anchored at Kaliningrad, just 250 nm to the east of Fortuna.

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