20 september 2010

During a visit to the North-Western Federal District, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin tours the Solitaire, a ship laying pipe as part of the Nord Stream gas pipeline project in the Gulf of Finland


Prime Minister Vladimir Putin toured the vessel to see how the pipe-laying crew and operational personnel work and relax.

The prime minister showed particular interest in the welding process. He asked how often defects are detected in welding seams and how high reject rates are. Crew members replied that the reject rate is less than 1%, or one seam per 12 work-hours, and that they always check the quality of a seam thoroughly before moving on to the next one.

The prime minister watched a pipe being placed in the water from a stinger. He remarked that the pipe seemed to be moving, not the ship. Crew members agreed that it can look that way, and explained that this is because the ship is so large that one can barely feel it moving.

Prime Minister Putin asked at what depth the pipe was being laid. Crew members replied that the piece of pipe in question was being laid at a depth of 60 metres, but depths can reach 200 metres.

The prime minister also toured the upper deck and the deckhouse, where the captain told him how the ship is operated. He noted that it is equipped with the navigation systems NMD CLASS3 and GLONASS.

Next Prime Minister Putin met with Nord Stream project executives onboard the ship.

Solitaire's displacement is 200,000 metric tons. Its crew has already laid over 300 kilometres of the first section of the gas pipeline.

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Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,

It's been my pleasure to tour this ship and see how work is organised here. As you know, this project has caused many disputes. It is still being debated, but you should know that we are on the right path. According to most forecasts, natural gas consumption in Europe will increase by 200 billion cubic metres in the next 10 years. And we will be able to supply a quarter of this amount via the Nord Stream pipeline. So this project is very timely and important for Russia and our European partners.

As you know, several European countries are involved, including Russia, Germany, Netherlands and France. Even more countries will consume the gas transported through this pipeline. Britain, Belgium and other states will receive gas through the European distribution network.

We are on schedule, but I understand how difficult your job is - I have watched you work today. I hope that Nord Stream AG and everyone involved in this project will perform their duties as meticulously and rapidly as you are. This is our common goal.

The crews of two more vessels are working in other areas of the sea, and they are also on schedule. We plan to deliver the first gas to European consumers in 2011 using the first section of this pipeline. The second leg will be put into operation in 2012. The total amount of gas transported via the Nord Stream will reach 55 billion cubic metres.

I hope this is not the last project we do together. You have vast experience, and we have big plans. If you have any questions or remarks or would like to discuss any problems, I am at your service.

Leo D. Varkevisser, Vice President of Nord Stream AG (as translated): Welcome aboard! We are happy to welcome you here.

Solitaire is one of the most sophisticated vessels operating around the globe. This is the first time we are working in the Russian territory and we are very proud of this. We would like to not only complete this project successfully but also assist you on other projects in the future. We know that you are working on a new project, the South Stream. We are also discussing the Shtokman project with Gazprom.

Also, we see the huge potential of the Arctic. This is why my boss, the owner of this company, is investing in the construction of a new vessel of this type, which will be three times bigger than this one and the biggest vessel in the world. It will be able to operate in the difficult weather conditions of the Arctic, and will be twice as powerful as this ship. We are ready for your projects.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, we're finishing preparations for the South Stream. The work is very challenging because the seabed there is deeper than here. But we have the necessary experience - we have already laid one pipeline to Turkey across the Black Sea and it has proved to be very reliable.