Fishing and Cables: Memorandum of Understanding

28th December 2012 in Safety

The NFFO and Subsea Cables UK, the umbrella body for the companies which lay subsea communications and power cables, have jointly agreed a memorandum of understanding.

Within the context of an ever increasing network of cables laid on the seabed, both industries have a profound interest in finding ways to co-exist with minimal effect on each other.

For the cable operators, the integrity of their investment in cables that can be vulnerable to some kinds of fishing gear is paramount, whilst the fishing industry needs to maintain access to its customary fishing grounds. Both industries have a shared concern to safeguard the safety of fishing vessels and to minimise the danger to vessels and crews of inadvertently snagged cables.

A huge number of fibre-optic cables were laid across the Atlantic, North Sea, Irish Sea and Channel during the dot-com boom to add to the more traditional telephone cables laid over the years. A new generation of cables importing electricity from offshore wind-farms is now giving rise to a different set of challenges.

Burial

It is agreed between the parties that, where conditions allow, cable burial is the most effective method to protect inadvertent damage to subsea cables by mobile fishing gears and to minimise the risk to fishing vessels. Subsea Cables UK and the NFFO have undertaken to work together in the coming year on a protocol that will define the optimum depth for cable burial, taking account of various factors.

Communication

We have agreed that the key to successful co-existence is to establish strong communications links between the cable laying and operating companies and the fishing industry at national and local levels. Ways of ensuring good communication links during the planning, laying, and operating phases have been discussed and will be part of ongoing dialogue between the NFFO and Subsea Cables UK.