New power cable install for P.E.I. facing huge delay

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 11, 2017

The cable laying ship " Isaac Newton " off Borden-Carleton late last year, laying power cable with Confederation bridge in the background. The ship used to transport and install two massive electrical cables under the Northumberland Strait between P.E.I. and New Brunswick

©TC MEDIA/Albert Haslam

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The $142-million project to replace two massive electrical cables nearing the end of their lives is now facing a lengthy delay.

The work to lay two cables under the Northumberland Strait between P.E.I. and New Brunswick to replace the current ones was at first expected to be complete by December.

However, Maritime Electric spokeswoman Kim Griffin said a problem with equipment aboard the 138-metre long Isaac Newton resulted in the target being missed.

On Sunday, the decision was made to “demobilize’’ the ship based on ice conditions in the strait.

The 16,000-ton Isaac Newton is now being prepared to return to Belgium.

Griffin is not certain when the Isaac Newton – or another ship – will return to complete the job.

She is hopeful work will recommence in the spring.

The cables have been laid in trenches, but three to four weeks of work is left to ensure the cables are properly protected.

“It’s unfortunate,’’ Griffin said of the delay.

“It’s certainly not what we wanted to be talking to people about.’’

The delay will not result in any increased cost to Maritime Electric. Korea-based LS Cable and System manufactured the cable and hired Jan De Nul Group, the Belgian company that owns the vessel named Isaac Newton, to install the cables.

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“It’s all in the contract that they have to supply and install and protect the cable,’’ said Griffin.

The project will see the new cables, rated as 180 MW each, more than double the current combined capacity of 200 MW while also providing a back-up for when the older ones fail.

The project has been in the works for about 10 years.

Griffin said the two cables that are being replaced are “nearing the end of their lives.’’

Still, she stressed that the delay will not impact Maritime Electric’s ability to provide power to its customers.

“Our customers aren’t going to see any impact from this,’’ she said.

“Our current two cables are working.’’