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Laying of subsea cable for Maritime Link about to begin

The cable-laying vessel Nexans Skagerrak is seen just off of Battlemans Beach. She is just finishing the survey run in advance of cable laying operations which are about to begin as part of the Maritime Link project.
The cable-laying vessel Nexans Skagerrak is seen just off of Battlemans Beach. She is just finishing the survey run in advance of cable laying operations which are about to begin as part of the Maritime Link project.

SYDNEY, N.S — Three years after construction on the project began, the laying of the 170-kilometre subsea cable as part of the $1.5 billion Maritime Link is about to get underway.

Rick Janega, a Sydney native who is president and CEO of Emera Newfoundland and Labrador, was in Sydney Tuesday to provide an update on the Maritime Link to a Cape Breton Partnership luncheon.

While the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project itself is behind schedule and over budget, Janega said the Maritime Link component is both on schedule and on budget.

“The project is progressing well, we’re going to be finishing it up this year,” Janega told reporters. “Contractors and employment on the project are at a peak right now. Converter sites, the buildings are enclosed and the cables have been manufactured and one of them is in Sydney harbour and the other is on its way.”

The Maritime Link involves the construction and operation of a new 500-megawatt high-voltage direct current line, as well as a high-voltage alternating current transmission line and associated infrastructure, between Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia. The project will also include two 170-kilometre subsea cables across the Cabot Strait, approximately 50 kilometres of overland transmission in Nova Scotia and 300 kilometres of overland transmission in Newfoundland.

Now that the harbour ice has cleared out of the Cabot Strait, Janega said the hope is to begin laying cable within days. The cable-laying vessel Nexans Skagerrak is currently in port. Nexans designed and manufactured the cable that will go into the Cabot Strait. Janega said the ship is carrying out an inspection of the route where the cable will be laid and once that is completed and once components are installed on the seafloor that will allow the pulling of the cable to go smoothly and the actual cable-laying can begin.

Manufacturing of the cables themselves — it is a 170-kilometre continuous cable — took two years. It involves 11 layers of material, Janega noted.

“It’s a very delicate process, there are remote operated vehicles that will watch the cables as it’s spooled off of the vessel and laid out onto the seafloor,” he said. “We start by pulling it into the horizontal directional drilled conduits that we installed last year … and then the vessel will over about a 10-day period commute between Newfoundland and Cape Breton, laying the cables one by one. So we’ll do the first cable over a two-week period and then we’ll transpool from a barge to the Skagerrak over about a following two-week period and then the second cable will be installed.”

Work on the Maritime Link is switching into high gear and should be completed over the summer months, Janega said. Trials are to begin in September, with the two utilities to take possession of the Maritime Link by the end of the year.

“The grounding site in Big Lorraine is complete and the distribution line that connects it to Woodbine is complete, the transmission line between Woodbine and Point Aconi, all of the towers are now constructed and erected, we’re into the final stages of pulling the conductor … that will be finished up in the month of May,” he said.

Construction employment in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland is currently at its peak of more than 500, Janega said. The work done by contractors has been very high quality, he added. Among the local companies that have worked on the project are Joneljim, East Coast Fabricators, Membertou Geometrics, Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources and Zutphen Contractors.

“We’ve talked about over $300 million worth of work that has gone to Nova Scotian companies, many of them are Cape Breton contractors that have been involved from day one of the project, there are over 200 companies that either directly or indirectly have received work,” Janega said.

“We do lots of capital projects in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador but to do a billion and a half dollar project and six years later to be sitting near the finish line . . .”


Maritime Link construction

Overall cost: $1.5 billion

Employs: More than 500 people

Length of subsea cable: 170 kilometres

Number of companies that have received work from project: 200

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