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National Grid boosts offshore safety for IFA2 interconnector

National Grid and RTE’s IFA2 interconnector project is investing in a powerful combination of safety and security measures to protect marine users around while it lays high voltage direct current (HVDC) cables in the Channel between March 2019 and February 2020.

For the first time on an offshore cable project, IFA2 will use a combination of fast response patrol vessels with manned and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) linked by satellite to an operations room to monitor its work areas. The UAV will provide high definition images of the working area, and traffic approaching it, every five to ten seconds. The protection package aims to ensure the cable laying exclusion zone is avoided by fishing vessels which could otherwise result in costly damage to both the cable and vessel. This is in addition to the traditional measures of AIS monitoring, safety vessels, Notices to Mariners, and follows consultation with marine authorities and local fishermen in both countries.

David Luetchford, IFA2’s Project Director in the UK, said: “There have been episodes of damage to both fishing vessels and cables when vessels have ignored notifications and demarcations on previous interconnector projects. We have learned from these.

“We’ve identified a combination of several technologies and tactics to detect and deflect any vessels in our working zones, thereby ensuring risks to fishing vessels and cable laying are both minimised.”

The HVDC cables linking the electricity transmission systems of Great Britain and France are an essential part of IFA2, and will run 200km from Merville in Normandy to Fareham in Hampshire. The cables will be buried in the seabed and installed by large specialist vessels which can transport and lay long sections of cables (up to 60km). There will be an exclusion zone extending to 500m either side of the cable route during the laying and burial operations.