Preventing subsea cable failure could save millions for offshore wind industry, IMCA says

New code of practice aims to slash subsea cable failures

The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) has issued a new Code of Practice with the aim of improving subsea power cable installation in offshore wind by preventing cable failure and thus enabling savings for the offshore wind industry.

For illustrative purposes only. Source: SSEN Transmission

The Code of Practice for Offshore Cable Laying in the Renewable Energy Industry (IMCA M264) addresses issues for the safe laying and terminating of offshore power cables to prevent damage – said to be a significant challenge for offshore wind where rates of failure result in millions worth of loss to everyone involved in delivery, including contractors, developers, and insurers.

According to IMCA, estimates put the cost of subsea cable failure for offshore wind at more than £500 million in 2020, with the average insurance claim worth more than £3 million, and an estimated 30% failure rate in any given year.

In addressing issues such as the laying spread and the interface between the vessel and the spread, and the safest methodology for overboarding, trenching and cable pulling, IMCA said that the Code of Practice establishes a new baseline for safely laying offshore submarine power cables which will significantly improve performance.

The association claims that the new Code of Practice could save millions for the offshore wind industry by preventing subsea cable failure.

“Contractors have come together to share their experiences around the design, testing, operation and maintenance of cable laying, the specialised equipment and technology used, and how it interfaces with supporting vessels. Decades of experience gained through the installation of thousands of kilometres of offshore cables have helped us find tangible solutions for the industry,” said Mark Ford, Marine & Quality Manager of IMCA.

“There are huge expectations around offshore wind in helping countries around the globe meet Net Zero targets. Fixing ongoing challenges around the installation of power cables could bring substantial savings for project and maintenance costs. Research shows that 90% of insurance claims for power cables are due to damage caused during installation, and this new IMCA Code of Practice will help reduce this figure.”

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In line with this, the Global Underwater Hub (GUH), UK’s trade and industry development body for the underwater sectors, recently stated that failures in underwater cables could derail global offshore wind ambitions as their reliability is paramount to the success of offshore wind and the energy transition.

GUH noted that it was estimated that around 85% of the total value of offshore wind insurance claims relates to subsea cables, which is affecting capacity and coverage and the cost of repairs typically runs into millions, with warranties rarely covering the high cost of business interruption.