After Nord Stream attack, Europe scrambles to secure undersea pipelines

Gas released from one of the Nord Stream pipeline ruptures (Swedish Coastguard)

Posted on October 2, 2022 at 8:57 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

When a suspected sabotage attack severed Nord Stream 1 and 2 lines on September 26, several hundred thousand tons of Russian natural gas were released into the atmosphere. As he evaporated into the air, any sense of complacency about the safety of the depths also increased. European nations are now taking additional steps to protect their vulnerable undersea pipelines: the UK plans to buy two special-purpose vessels to monitor and defend against undersea threats; Norway has deployed additional naval assets to patrol its sprawling offshore oil and gas infrastructure; and the Italian Navy dispatched ships to monitor gas pipelines in the Mediterranean.

The identity of the attacker is not yet known for sure, but several NATO member states have hinted or said they believe Russia was the culprit – even though the Russian government is the majority owner of the pipeline and most of the gas.

“Our Internet and our energy are highly dependent on pipelines and cables. Russia does not hide its ability to target such infrastructure,” British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said on Sunday.

To better defend British interests under the sea, Wallace announced, the British government has “recently committed to two specialist vessels capable of keeping our cables and pipelines secure”.

“The first multi-role survey vessel for deep sea warfare will be procured by the end of this year, outfitted here in the UK and then operational by the end of next year,” it said. he declares. “The second ship will be built in the UK and we plan to ensure that it covers all of our vulnerabilities.

In Italy, the Ministry of Defense called on the national navy to carry out underwater inspections with ROVs near key infrastructure – in particular the infrastructure of the Transmed pipeline, which carries gas from North Africa. There are three gas pipelines between Italy and Sicily, and two ships have been assigned to inspect them.

“Since yesterday, navy patrols in the Sicilian Channel have doubled, there will be checks on the pipelines located in the seabed,” said Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone , speaking to La Repubblica. “We have been aware of this threat for years. When I was at the top of the navy, I spoke about it during hearings in parliament. We prepared for it.”

In the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea, the Norwegian Navy has intensified its patrol operations around offshore oil and gas infrastructure. Operators on the Norwegian shelf have reported unusual drone activity near six different platforms, and the helicopter pilots’ union serving Norway’s offshore sector has called for military support to ensure flight safety. “With the right technical equipment, for example from a military ship, the drone can be tracked, the flight route mapped and the authorities can thus know where it comes from using state-of-the-art technology”, said union vice-president Carl Gilbert. Rego, speaking to NTB.

Norway also faces a known threat to its undersea communications cable infrastructure: earlier this year, unspecified actors damaged a cable between Norway and Svalbard. This particular cable is significant because it is the data pipeline for the world’s largest commercial satcom ground station, SvalSat, which provides downlink support for satellites in polar orbits.

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