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Grigory Pasko: Looking a gift horse in the mouth, Part 5

[See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this series.] Nord Stream, Scandinavian Style Beware of Greeks bearing gifts Part 5 Grigory Pasko, journalist After it had become known about the contracts signed between Nord Stream and archaeologists, as well as between Nord Stream and the administration of the port of Slite, it was decided to meet with the main protagonists of these contracts – the head of the company Aqua Arkeologen, underwater archaeologist Göran Ankarlilja, as well as with the technical director of the technical service of the island of Gotland Bertil Klintbom. Here in brief are our conversations with them.

Göran Ankarlilja recounted that he has spent a long time researching an event that took place in the year 1556 just offshore from Gotland.During the time of the Northern Seven Years’ War, a naval battle between the Swedish and combined Danish-Lübeck fleets that took place to the north of Öland at the end of July 1556 ended in a draw, because a storm arose during the battle. After this, the Danish-Lübeck fleet anchored off Visby in order to commit to the earth the bodies of several of those who had died in the battle. On one of the subsequent nights, the storm increased so much in intensity that 11 Danish and 6 Lübeck ships were wrecked, from which around 6 thsd. persons died, including three admirals and twelve captains.Underwater archaeologists during the time of one of the expeditions discovered on the bottom of the sea a cast iron cannon of that time – an interesting exhibit of antiquity. Thanks to a sponsor – the company Nord Stream – the archaeological research continues.arheolog052308The archaeologist Göran Ankarlilja (photo by Grigory Pasko)How did you find this sponsor?I came to them myself and said that I’ve got this project: we had already discovered the cannon and wanted to continue such expeditions. The representatives of the company became interested in the project, and they began to sponsor it. They pay the invoices that I submit to them. There is no specific sum, but I do have a limit. An invoice for the restoration of the cannon has been submitted, for the organization of the museum exhibition…About submerged chemical weapons I have heard, but there are none in the places we are doing our research. We haven’t found anything like that there.buklet052308A page from an advertising booklet (photo by Grigory Pasko) That’s the kind of talk we had with the underwater archaeologist. After this, he showed us in the local museum an exhibition of those objects that had been raised from the bottom of the sea in the place of the wreckage of the fleet. It was obvious that even if the company Nord Stream is financing historians for the sake of its image, in any case it is doing useful work for historians. All that remains for me to find out is whether «Gazprom» – the principal shareholder in Nord Stream – is funding any archaeological expeditions in Russia.Bertil Klintbom, the technical director of the technical service of the island of Gotland, met with us on the wharf in Slite. There was a cold wind blowing. Several large-capacity cargo vessels were moored there. Mr. Klintblom recounted the following: The harbor facilities in Slite right now are in bad condition. Tourist ferries used to come here earlier, but it’s been 15 years since they’ve stopped coming. Compressed wood fuel pellets are brought into the port for burning. There is a hope that tourist passenger flow will once again open up after the modernization of the harbor facilities. From Visby to Sweden is 3.5 hours by ferry, and to the Baltic States – 4 hours. It would be foolish not to take advantage of such a favorable location of the port, right in the middle of the Baltic Sea.Slite052308The harbor in Slite (photo by Grigory Pasko)How did your relations with Nord Stream begin?We received a request from Nord Stream to offload and upload pipes coming from Germany …for their gas project. But the port isn’t up-to-date for that. Especially the quay – it’s in very poor condition. To that request we said that if they paid all the fees in advance, we could rebuild the quay, and then they could ship all the pipes to Slite and out again. The port will be dredged deeper, and the quay will be made wider and bigger so it can be used for all the pipes.And they have already made an advance payment?They haven’t done that yet. The intention in the contract is that we should agree between Nord Stream and the municipality of Gotland on the exact cost of rebuilding the quay. And then they will pay during the construction work. …We normally take a fee for ships entering the port, and …for the goods coming in and the things being shipped out. …The thing that is different in this case compared to other cases is that …in this case it will be paid in advance. …If Nord Stream don’t get their permission for the pipe, the quay will still be paid for.This is a risk for them and disadvantageous for them?Of course it’s up to them, if they think they’ll get the permission or not. And you can also say that if we get more pipes than calculated into the port, then they will of course have gotten a discount, but if they choose to bring in fewer pipes, they will have paid more for each pipe. …They have said to us, and in the contract, that the port must be completed the day they get the permission for the project and they start to send in all the pipes. They don’t want to wait for us to rebuild the harbor.What kind of time frame are we talking about?It will take a year to rebuild the quay. And during that year we will do all the dredging, all the construction works. Nord Stream has given us time permission up to – I think it’s September 2009. It has to be completed by then.klintbom052308Technical Director Bertil Klintbom (photo by Grigory Pasko)A question for you personally, irrespective of your position: are you for the pipeline or against it?In principle, I’m against fossil fuels. I think we need to move quicker on alternative fuels, for instance for transportation. On the other hand, I also know that there is nothing really useable for the moment. You have ethanol, and on Gotland we’re working quite a lot with a biogas project, and that will be something for the future. But there is a gap in time, where Europe surely will need more natural gas. Europe doesn’t have the same situation as Sweden and Gotland has: we have lots of hydroelectric power and things like that, so it’s easier here to be against [fossil fuels].Summing up…After all the meetings with those who have something to do with the allocation of funds from Nord Stream, one can make the following conclusions.First, NOBODY HAS RECEIVED any actual money. Although contracts have been signed.Second, only one sum has been concretely spelled out – 500 thousand euros for the biological project of the university of Gotland. It is possible that there is also a sum in the contract with the municipality, but for some reason they did not name it for us. They were probably embarrassed to.Third, one got such an impression that the people who have something to do with the not-yet-received money are ashamed of something; they almost seem to be trying to justify their actions. What for? The company is not simply not concealing its intentions, it is even, I would say, advertising them?Fourth, it became clear that the image of the company is nevertheless still shaky: many consider the project to lay a pipeline along the sea bed inadvisable, many are vacillating… From this – the abstruse attitude towards the company Nord Stream itself. Nord Stream’s money, or, more precisely, the promise of this money – certainly has an impact, but, the creation of a positive image for the company is still proving to be difficult.Fifth, despite all this, one can note the effectiveness of the work of Nord Stream’s PR people. The actual money allocated is not large (in the scales of the whole multi-billion euro project!), but the buzz that has been generated surrounding the promises is reverberating throughout the whole world. (Here’s who «Gazprom» ought to be learning from: you’d think they’d get the message and start treating their promises to help the Russian regions more seriously).