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Akademik Chersky Pipe-Laying Vessel Changes Ownership To Circumvent U.S. Sanctions On Nord Stream 2

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Akademik Chersky Pipe-Laying Vessel Changes Ownership To Circumvent U.S. Sanctions On Nord Stream 2

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The Akademik Chersky pipelaying vessel, which is the ship expected to complete the final stretch of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, now belongs to the Samara Thermal Energy Property Fund.

This was reported by Russian news agency RBC, referencing an extract from the ship’s registration in the Russian International Register of Ships.

According to RBC, the Akademik Chersky pipe-laying vessel is the only Russian vessel capable of completing the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline and is now owned by the Samara Thermal Energy Property Fund.

Earlier, the owner of the Academician Chersky was not reported anywhere, and the operating organization was the Gazprom subsidiary, Gazprom Fleet.

The vessel has been in the operational management of Gazprom Fleet since 2016. The pipe layer appeared on the Gazprom Fleet website at least until February 2020.

This can be easily seen on web.archive.org

This is significant because U.S. sanctions in December 2019 oblige the U.S. president to blacklist any company that provides vessels for the construction of Nord Stream 2.

The vessel itself can also be included in the SDN list – in this case, the Akademik Chersky vessel will probably be able to complete the pipeline, but subsequently lose access to any foreign services (retrofitting, repair, etc.).

At the same time, US senators Ted Cruz and Jinn Shahin are preparing to introduce a new bill to Congress to prevent the completion of the project.

Regardless what they introduce, it is unlikely to work.

Cruz said in May that new sanctions would affect any ship and any shipowner who tried to complete the construction of Nord Stream 2.

The Samara Thermal Energy Property Fund received the ship at an undisclosed date. his is the only such asset of the fund from Samara, while Gazprom Fleet owns seven vessels. Gazprom acquired the Akademik Chersky in 2015.

According to a list of affiliates of Gazprom, it follows that as of March 31st, 2020, the Samara Thermal Energy Property Fund was part of the Gazprom Group.

The founders of the company were Gazprom Teploenergo (51%) and Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Samara (49%).

Both enterprises are part of the Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Group, the energy distribution structure of Gazprom.

The Samara Thermal Energy Property Fund is a non-public company, and is not obliged to disclose its participants, so it can theoretically change its ownership.

As of April 1st, the fund was on the list of affiliates of the Gazprom group (not Gazprom itself). But as of today, the information has not yet been disclosed, official spokesman for Gazprom Sergey Kupriyanov said, recommending that the gas monopoly’s information disclosure schedule be monitored.

Gazprom believes that “the sanction risks associated with the operation of the vessel are leveled,” a source in Gazprom said, without further explanation.

Gazprom Mezhregiongaz and Gazprom Fleet are already included in the less stringent, sectoral sanction list of the US Treasury: they are prohibited from supplying American equipment and technologies for the exploration and production of oil (not gas) on the Russian Arctic shelf, in deep sea areas and in slates.

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, it is possible to complete the project by the end of 2020, or in the early parts of 2021.

Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that the ship Akademik Chersky could do this. In early May, it approached the German port of Mukran, which is the logistics center of the Nord Stream-2 project. This pipelayer, the only one in Russia, is equipped with a dynamic positioning system, which is a prerequisite for the Danish regulators, in whose waters the last section should be built.

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