Cable laying: a fresh approach

SeaSerpent is a system of continuous support which pays out onto the cable SeaSerpent is a system of continuous support which pays out onto the cable
Industry Database

The SeaSerpent, a patented product developed by UK buoyancy specialist Unique Seaflex, is being adopted by an increasing number of cable-laying contractors around the world. Unique Seaflex believes the product meets the challenges of cable laying head-on in a way which the alternatives cannot.

According to the manufacturers, three of the main operational challenges faced by those laying cables, and in particular landing them, are how to avoid point-loading those cables during the process, how to ensure that it is laid exactly where it needs to be, and how to complete the process as time-efficiently as possible so as to maximise project margins.

To reduce the risk of point-loading compared to traditional individual floats which are secured to the cable every few metres from a workboat as the cable hits the water, the SeaSerpent is a system of continuous support which pays out onto the cable and is fastened to it back up on the deck every 1-1.5m with simple straps or rope.

Supplied on reels offering section lengths of 50m, 100m or 200m which are linked via jumper hoses, the SeaSerpent pays out from its own launch system which is controlled by a Seaflex technician on the deck who will also oversee its initial inflation to the correct pressure and then maintenance of its pressure along its entire length.

Aside from greatly reducing the risk of point-loading when compared to installing individual floats, the ability to control the buoyancy along the entire length of the cable from the deck and to lay the cable in a controlled fashion gives the user a unique flexibility throughout the process. In the event of bad weather coming in quickly, the cable can be dropped to the seabed to see it out and then re-floated. The same applies if for whatever reason the trench is missed.

At the end of the process, the SeaSerpent is detached from the cable and spooled back onto a reel by its dedicated recovery system.

Proven in service for well over a decade in projects right around the world, most recently in the Middle East and with upcoming work in South East Asia, the most high-profile recent use of the SeaSerpent around Northern European waters was in 2012 by VSMC on the London Array project where 3.2km of 90kg/m export power cable was safely and efficiently landed with the on-deck assistance of two Seaflex technicians.

According to Unique Seaflex, the SeaSerpent is extremely cost-effective to manufacture as a single long tube compared to smaller discrete units which, depending upon size, can be up to twice the price of the SeaSerpent to produce the same overall amount of uplift. Transportation and stowage deflated on palletised reels, they claim, makes for efficient mobilisation and deck logistics.

By Jake Frith

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