Global Marine Wins Contract for Neptune Deep Sea Research Observatory

UK based Global Marine Systems Limited, a leader in subsea cable route design, installation and maintenance, has secured a contract win from Ocean Networks Canada, to upgrade the fibre optic cables serving the NEPTUNE observatory off the west coast of Canada.

An initiative of the University of Victoria, Ocean Networks Canada operates extensive monitoring networks and undersea observatories for scientific research to help communities, government and industry make informed decisions about our future. The subsea infrastructure of NEPTUNE comprises an 800 km loop of fibre optic cable connected to various instrumented sites (nodes). The observatory enables scientists to study phenomena through continuous long-term, high temporal resolution observations not afforded by traditional ship-based ocean exploration. By co-locating instruments of different types, researchers can study interactions among geological, chemical, physical and biological processes that drive the dynamic earth-ocean system. The shore station at Port Alberni on Vancouver Island sends the collected data via fibre optic cable to the University of Victoria and out to the world via the Internet.

The contract with Global Marine, a one-stop shop for subsea engineering from initial concept to ongoing maintenance over the system’s lifetime, was signed in September and includes two parts. The first, which was completed in October 2015, was the recovery of failed cables from the NEPTUNE system. The second is the cable installation of new subsea cables, which is scheduled for May 2016.

Ocean Networks Canada’s ocean observatories, NEPTUNE and VENUS (which Global Marine also helped install), are included in the NAZ (North America Zone) maintenance agreement. However, although the cables to the nodes are covered by the agreement, cables from the nodes to the scientific instruments are not, hence the opportunity to bid for the maintenance contract. Global Marine was selected for a variety of reasons, not least because the company maintains nearly 380,000km of globally installed fibre optic cable out of a total cable maintenance base of 1,060,000km, and can account for 35% of maintenance operations performed on fibre optic cables globally.

The cable recovery work for the NEPTUNE observatory was performed by Global Marine’s vessel, Wave Venture, a highly specified cable laying and multi-purpose offshore vessel capable of complex offshore construction projects. There were four sections of broken cable identified for recovery, measuring 4750, 7962, 3500 and 1560 meters in length, at water depths of between 2100 and 2400 meters.

Although the recovery work proved relatively straightforward, the installation of new fibre optic cables next year is expected to provide a far greater engineering challenge. The difficult task is in part down to the fact that the mechanical subsea structures weighing circa 1.8 tons each, will make storage and vessel loading far from simple.

Four cables in total will each feature a mud-mat at each end that helps secure the cable in place. The subsequent task will be accurate deployment on the seabed, using a ROV to connect existing seabed cables to the structure. The expert teams of solution designers and project engineers at Global Marine, which is acquiring a rapidly growing reputation for handling complex projects involving subsea structures, have come up with a solution that means Wave Venture will only be required to take one passage to install four cables – thus creating further savings for the customer – at Clayoquot Slope and Endeavour.

This level of pre-project engineering capability and solution design is imparted to ensure successfully executed, high quality, yet cost effective project delivery. It is a formula that has proved highly successful in Global Marine’s traditional core market of telecoms, and is today being transferred to a host of other markets that include deep sea research, oil & gas and offshore renewables.

“We are extremely pleased to assist Ocean Networks Canada and ultimately the University of Victoria continue their important deep sea research in the region,” says John Walters, Director of Maintenance at Global Marine. “Our in-house teams offer proven capabilities in the delivery of fully engineered end-to-end solutions that meet a vast array of customer requirements. The NEPTUNE installation is a case in point, where Global Marine is providing both installation services and on-going maintenance solutions during the system’s lifetime.”

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