The US State Department is threatening the remaining European and international contractors involved in the controversial Nord Stream 2 Russian gas export scheme with new punitive action as the project operator prepares to resume pipelay work in Danish waters later this week.

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Two unnamed sources in the State Department quoted by Reuters said the US is set to make public a report on contractors that are suspected of maintaining ties with operator Nord Stream 2 despite warnings that they could face US sanctions.

Companies that may be named reportedly provide insurance to Russian vessels hired by Nord Stream 2 to lay the pipeline, provide support services, and verify the project’s construction equipment and its compliance with international safety standards.

Danish job outline

Earlier this month, Nord Stream 2 sent a notice to the Danish Energy Agency that it plans to resume pipelaying work along two unfinished parallel segments of the pipeline in Danish waters from 15 January.

Based on another notice, sent by the operator to the Danish Maritime Authority, the two unfinished segments extend for about 49 kilometres and 68 kilometres.

They run from the maritime border between Denmark and Germany to the south-east of Bornholm Island, where Swiss specialised maritime contractor Allseas halted its pipelaying work in December 2019 on the eve of the introduction of US sanctions against Nord Stream 2.

Russian pipelaying barge Fortuna is reportedly preparing to leave the German port of Wismar to start laying the shortest segment once weather conditions and visibility improve.

Fortuna is understood to be capable of laying the pipe at the speed of not more than 1.5 kilometres per day.

Meanwhile another Russian pipelaying vessel, Akademik Chersky, has returned to the coast of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad from Nord Stream 2’s logistics and storage base in the port of Mukran in the German region of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, according to vessel tracking services.

Chersky is expected to remain on stand-by for the next several weeks before it may be called to Mukran to load pipes and then proceed to work on the second, longer segment of the pipeline in Danish waters.

Nord Stream 2 has largely avoided public comment on its efforts to complete the construction of the gas pipeline.

However, it has told the Danish Maritime Authority that the Fortuna will participate in the pipelay job and will have to serve a separate notice to them before Chersky joins the construction.

German shield

Nord Stream 2 is looking to shield its remaining international contractors from potential US retaliation, with authorities of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania rubberstamping the creation of the Foundation for Climate & Environmental Protection last week.

The foundation is expected to become a middle party between Nord Stream 2 and its contractors, thus technically cutting direct ties between them and protecting them from the US sanctions.

However, despite being labelled as the independent regional body, Nord Stream 2 is set to contribute €20 million ($24 million), or 99% of the foundation’s initial capital, and appoint its first executive director, according to German magazine Bild.