Posted on December 7th, 2020


Sri Lanka’s Colombo Dockyard has secured a further export deal in the niche sector of cableship construction, writes David Tinsley.

Following its completion last year of a similar type of vessel to Japanese account, the yard has been entrusted with a 100m cable laying and repair ship for Orange Marine of France, to be delivered in early 2023. She will become the first in the fleet conceived both for fibre optic telecommunication cables and inter-array electrical power cables on offshore wind farms.

The newbuild’s design has been developed by the Norwegian company Vard, whose Brattvaag yard in 2014 produced Orange Marine’s previous fleet addition, the 100m Pierre de Fermat, using Vard 9-01 blueprints. The same design also provided the basis for the 111m KDDI Cable Infinity, handed over in 2019 by Colombo Dockyard to Japanese telecommunications group KDDI, but incorporating increased carrying capacity plus power cable installation features.

The new ship for Marseilles-domiciled Orange Marine will replace the 108m Raymond Croze, which was commissioned into service in 1983 from Ateliers & Chantiers de la Rochelle-Pallice. The newbuild will have three cable tanks, one of which will be fitted with a carousel to enable power cable storage and outturn. Unlike the older style of ship with bow sheaves, the design provides for all work to be effected over the stern.

A diesel-electric power and propulsion system, the favoured mode in the cableship domain, has been nominated for the Orange newbuild. The power plant will comprise four gensets supplying electrical energy to a pair of main azimuthing thrusters aft and two tunnel thrusters in the bow, operated and monitored by an integrated automation and power management system. To meet the exacting manoeuvring, directional stability and dependability requirements of such a vessel, Azipod electric propulsors have been selected.

Orange Marine also stated that the ship’s energy management system will embrace electrical storage back-up using batteries so as to reduce fuel consumption during cable work and ensure continuity in the event of the unexpected shutdown of a generator. The vessel will also be equipped to draw electrical energy from the shoreside grid for the ship’s net when berthed in port, so as to reduce carbon emissions.

Given the fundamental importance of maintaining global internet connectivity, for which submarine cables form the backbone of the international system, the new ship will be equipped to deploy within 24 hours at any time when required. Despite careful choices of optimised routes and adoption of specific means of protection during the installation of cable, outages are still regularly experienced worldwide due to faults or damage, necessitating the intervention of cableships.

This vital mission of the Orange Marine newbuilding will be complemented by the capability to undertake power cable projects, addressing the growth in offshore renewables, and ensuring operational versatility and enhanced asset utilisation over the ship’s lifetime.

The French deal constitutes the second successful foray into the European market this year by Colombo Dockyard, after it attracted a contract from Norwegian owner Misje Eco Bulk for a series of 90m shortsea cargo vessels specified with an integrated Wartsila hybrid propulsion arrangement.

Moreover, the direction of the latest cable vessel order sends another stark warning to established shipbuilders in certain spheres of added-value, sophisticated tonnage construction that buyers today, abetted by the ease of technology transfer, consider the field to be wide open.

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