New ‘CableFish’ ROV-rival to cut subsea cabling costs following successful Orkney sea-trials


Workers prepare the CableFish for launch during Orkney sea-trials
Workers prepare the CableFish for launch during Orkney sea-trials


North Sea Systems has successfully completed the first full scale trial of its novel CableFish technology – developed to make subsea cable installation more reliable and cost effective – at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney.

The installation of subsea cables in shallow waters is notoriously risky as it is impacted by a number of factors including unpredictable sea states, uneven seabed and strong tides. Improving the reliability and accuracy of cable installations will bring down the cost of the offshore construction works, which will in turn reduce the cost of marine energy.

CableFish provides continuous visual and position monitoring of the ‘touchdown point’ in up to 6 knots of tidal flow, providing a considerably higher operation window than using ROVs which can only operate in up to 2 knots of tidal flow. The technology enables significant cost savings as it negates the need for ROVs and post-lay surveys.

Ben Baker, Project Manager, North Sea Systems, said: “CableFish is now a fully commercial system. Reaching this milestone would not have been possible without the Scottish Government’s funding through the MRCF and the wider support provided by the Carbon Trust.”

Typically it costs £1 million to procure and install a 2km cable in a tidal site. This amounts to a 10% of the overall costs to build a single 1.5MW tidal turbine. Damaged cables are replaced in their entirety therefore the effective installation is imperative to reduce project costs.

Funded by the Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) – an £18 million Scottish Government fund managed by the Carbon Trust – the  ‘cablefish’ significantly de-risks cable installation and reduces costs by eliminating ROVs.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “I am very pleased that we were able to assist in the development of this innovative cable installation technology with our Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund. I am also delighted to hear that two of the companies that made this project possible are from the Scottish supply chain.

“Developers who are trying to generate clean, green power from our oceans face many challenges, and the Scottish Government is committed to supporting collaborative efforts to find solutions to these problems. CableFish will help reduce the costs and risks of installing cables in the first array projects, such as MeyGen’s tidal energy project in the Pentland Firth. Innovation is a crucial part of cost reduction and I am glad to have supported this promising new concept.”

Andrew Lever, Director of Innovation, the Carbon Trust, said: “The successful sea trial of CableFish is a great example of collaborative innovation, which has demonstrated tangible cost reduction to support first tidal technology arrays and in doing so further progresses the marine sector towards commercialisation.”

The project was funded by the Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund – a Scottish Government fund – and had involvement by Scottish firms Leask Marine, and Bowtech.

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