The Russian vessel tapped to finish the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline has begun work in Danish waters just days after the United States sanctioned its parent company.
"The lay barge Fortuna has started works in the construction corridor in the Danish [Exclusive Economic Zone], ahead of the resumption of the Nord Stream 2 construction. All works are performed in line with relevant permits," Nord Stream 2 said in a statement on January 24.
Fortuna will seek to build the remaining 150 kilometers of pipeline, including 120 kilometers in Danish waters and 30 kilometers in German waters, needed to complete the project. Nord Stream 2 is controlled by the Russian state-owned natural-gas company Gazprom.
The United States on January 19 sanctioned KVT-RUS, the owner of the Fortuna, in its latest move to stop the completion of the pipeline. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. government and several EU members say the project, which will carry Russian natural gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, will strengthen Moscow’s energy hold on Europe and undercut Ukraine’s role as a transit country.
The pipeline, designed to double capacity of the existing undersea Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, has been a point of contention between Berlin and Washington.
Germany and Russia say the U.S. measures amount to illegal extraterritorial sanctions on commercial activity.
Germany wants to secure natural gas as it ends reliance on nuclear and coal-fired power plants during its buildup of green energy infrastructure.
Even if Fortuna completes the pipeline, hurdles still remain before gas can start flowing to Germany. The United States in December 2020 passed legislation sanctioning any company that certifies or insures the pipeline.
Russia will need third-party certification of the pipeline before it can begin pumping gas.
Last week, the Norwegian certification company DNV GL confirmed it was withdrawing from the project due to the threat of U.S. sanctions.
U.S. sanctions have already delayed completion of the project by a year. The United States in December 2019 sanctioned vessels building the pipeline, forcing Swiss-based company AllSeas to drop out.
Fortuna is picking up where Fortuna left off. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last year he hoped the project would be completed by the end of March 2021.