Russian pipe-laying vessel stops near Nord Stream 2 site

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Pipe-laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy is seen in a bay near the Baltic Sea port of Baltiysk

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian pipe-laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy stopped on Saturday near the construction site of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Saturday.

The consortium led by Gazprom building the 1,230 kilometre (km) pipeline said last month that work would resume after it was suspended a year ago when U.S. sanctions targeted companies involved in the construction.

The U.S. ambassador to Berlin called on the German government and the European Union to put a temporary halt to construction work on the pipeline to send a signal to Moscow.

Washington says the pipeline, which has become a flashpoint in relations between Russia and the West that have sunk to post-Cold War lows, compromises European energy security.

"This pipeline is not just an economic project, but the Kremlin's political tool to bypass Ukraine and divide Europe," Robin Quinville, acting U.S. ambassador to Berlin, told Germany's Handelsblatt daily.

Eikon data showed the Russian pipe-laying vessel has stopped north of Poland and Germany. Swiss-Dutch company Allseas suspended pipe-laying last December following the threat of sanctions from Washington.

The maritime authority in the German city of Stralsund has informed shippers there will be pipeline-laying activities from Dec. 5 through Dec. 31 in the Baltic Sea area where Nord Stream 2 will make landfall.

It did not say when the work would be finished or how the other remaining sections of the pipeline would be laid, adding that it will name the vessel, which would lay pipes, later. It declined to comment further on Friday.

The $11 billion Nord Stream 2 project, led by Russian state energy company Gazprom and aimed at doubling the existing Nord Stream pipeline's capacity, is more than 90% complete.

However, the annual U.S. defence policy bill unveiled by lawmakers late on Thursday contains sanctions that backers say will halt Nord Stream 2.

Gazprom's western partners in the project are Germany's Uniper, BASF's Wintershall Dea, Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell, Austria's OMV and Engie.

(Editing by Alexander Smith)