Allseas, a Swiss-Dutch company laying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline off the Danish coast, has announced it is suspending its work and will pull out of the project after being faced with an avalanche of sanctions by the US.
The company, which operates two vessels installing deep-sea pipes for Nord Stream 2 on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, released its statement just before US President Donald Trump signed the mammoth 2020 National Defense Authorization Act into law on Friday night. The bill targets companies involved in the construction of the pipeline, giving them 30 days to wind down all operations unless they want to bear the brunt of crippling US sanctions.
“In anticipation of the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Allseas has suspended its Nord Stream 2 pipelay activities,” the company said, adding that it would phase out its operations “consistent with the legislation’s wind down provision” and would heed all recommendations from US authorities.
The sanctions would see Washington revoke US visas and freeze American properties owned by anyone who violates the law and sticks to their contract to work on the pipeline.
Earlier this month, the company received a strongly worded letter penned by a group of GOP lawmakers led by Senator Ted Cruz, threatening the firm with hell on earth and effectively browbeating it into abandoning the project.
The letter said that if Allseas continues to do the work “for even a single day” after Trump signs the bill, it would be exposed “to crushing and potentially fatal legal and economic sanctions.”
While Allseas plays an important role in the project, the pipelaying work is already in its final stages, with only one last stretch near the Danish island of Bornholm still to be covered.
Asked whether Washington’s potential sanctions might undermine the construction earlier this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow “assumes that [Nord Stream 2] will be completed.” While Peskov did not provide much additional detail, some experts have suggested that Russian energy giant Gazprom might take over and complete the pipelaying work on its own.
It was expected initially that the Nord Stream 2 would be launched by the end of this year, but the work stalled due to Denmark dragging its feet on providing the permit needed for Allseas to kick off the operations. The construction was eventually greenlighted in October, and the work itself began in late November. It was estimated that it would take the company about five weeks to finish the project.
Nord Stream 2, which runs from the Russian Baltic coast to Germany, will deliver 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year to European customers. Germany, arguably the main beneficiary of the project, has been under tremendous pressure by the US to scrap the project as well, but has refused to back down.