No anchors to be used when laying gas pipeline in Gulf of Finland
Planned vessel would reduce damage to sea bottom
Nord Stream, the company planning the undersea pipeline that is to run from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea, plans to use a vessel for laying the pipeline in the Gulf of Finland that would not require any anchors.
This would mean that the work would greatly reduce the damage inflicted on the sea bottom in an ecologically sensitive sea area.
Nord Stream has amended the parts of its licence application affecting the Finnish economic zone in the sea.
Under the new plan, laying the pipeline in waters east of the Hanko Peninsula, on the southwest tip of Finland, would involve a vessel that can stay in place using only its propellers.
In other parts of the Baltic, the pipeline would be laid on the bottom of the sea from a vessel whose anchors are drawn along the bottom.
Finland has expressed concern that upsetting the sea bottom could hurt the ecological balance in the Gulf of Finland by releasing nutrients that have accumulated in sediments on the bottom.
The anchors could also damage wartime mines, barrels containing unknown chemicals, and valuable shipwrecks on the bottom.
The environmental assessment of the pipeline project is available for review until May 5th.
The Uusimaa Environment Centre will draw up its statement on the matter in July, and the Ministry of the Environment will file Finland’s statement to be submitted to other countries.
After the statements, the licencing process will begin.
Under the Finnish law on economic zones, the pipeline requires the consent of the Finnish government, and a licence from the environmental licence office of the Province of West Finland.
Nord Stream submitted its application concerning the economic zone to the Ministry of Labour and Business Affairs already on March 9th. The application was amended when the company agreed to use an vessel that can be stabilised without an anchor.
According to Sebastian Sass, Nord Stream Permitting Director, the decision on the different type of vessel was made for environmental reasons.
“We want to affect the bottom of the sea as little as possible, because the bottom in the Gulf of Finland is especially uneven”, Saas says.
“In addition, the old remnants of weapons are specifically in the Gulf of Finland. About 30 mines would need to be removed, while in waters near Sweden there is only one. The aim is to use especially well-developed technology specifically in the Gulf of Finland”, he emphasises.
At the Uusimaa Environment Centre, deputy director Rolf Nyström says that the plan to use a vessel in the Gulf of Finland that does not use anchors is an important change, which occurred in connection with unofficial discussions while the environmental impact assessment was being drawn up.
Nyström does not want to take a stand on the environmental impact of the project, because he is preparing an official statement on the matter.
In addition to the choice of vessels, the planned routing has changed during the environmental assessment.
For instance, at the insistence of Denmark, the routing near Bornholm has been moved to pass the island on the south side.
The original option in the Gulf of Finland was to have the pipeline go closer to the Estonian shore, where the sea bottom is more even than in the Finnish economic zone.
However, Estonia refused to allow studies in its area, so Nord Stream focused on the routing near Finland.
In addition to Estonia, Sweden and Poland see security issues with the pipeline.
Finland has emphasised that the whole project is primarily an environmental question.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Service vessel waste water and politics among subjects of interest at Baltic Sea pipeline promotional meeting (11.3.2009)
Assessment: limited impact of gas pipeline on Baltic Sea (10.3.2009)
Environmental assessment of proposed undersea gas pipeline to be assessed by adjacent countries (27.01.2009)
Old sea mines to be detonated to make way for Baltic Sea gas pipeline (25.11.2008)