Port bosses are hailing the huge cable-spooling operation as a symbol that greater things are heading to Sunderland's waterfront.
The enormous NEXANS SKAGERRAK advanced cable laying vessel offloaded 1,500m of 256mm thick submarine cable, weighing an incredible 184.5 tons, at Port of Sunderland this week.
The cable was spooled onto an enormous carousel in shed No.8 by Balfour Beatty and staff from the Port’s Marine Department.
Port chiefs say the operation grows Sunderland's reputation as a gateway to offshore and renewable energy sector, and is the latest project in the facility's evolution after recent years have seen investment in road infrastructure, new crane and hard standing facilities, and a vital rail link.
Matthew Hunt, Port of Sunderland director, said: “This was an incredibly technical operation and a huge logistical challenge, that involved running this thick cable over roads to allow the spooling to take place, but we managed it in such a way that vehicles could still move freely and gain access to all areas of the port.
“Balfour Beatty and our own Marine Team did an outstanding job to progress this work efficiently and with the minimum impact to port operations.”
The cable is to be stored at Port of Sunderland and will be used as repair spares for offshore windfarm projects in the North Sea.
Port Sales manager Paul Olvhoj, added: “This project further boosts the port’s renewable energy credentials and will see the city become one of the East Coast hubs for offshore wind repairs and development.
“And this is just the start, a second vessel will offload further cable before the end of the year. We will once again work closely with our partners at Balfour Beatty to provide a safe and secure storage facility, both in the shed and on outside storage next to Greenwells Quay, which has the benefit of being just three minutes sailing from the open sea.”
The giant NEXANS SKAGERRAK was berthed at Greenwells Quay throughout the spooling operation.
At 118mts in length by 32mts breadth, the vessel, which was converted to a cable laying ship only last year, has a deadweight of well over 7,000 tons and a cable capacity of 7,000 tons.
Sunderland City Council, which owns Port of Sunderland, this year celebrated the 300th anniversary of the formation of the River Wear Commission – the port authority, as it is now – organising an exhibition at Sunderland Museum which will run until 25 February and a special light projection of the port’s 300th anniversary badge at Keel Square.
The occasion was also marked with the erection of a blue plaque in honour of John Murray, the engineer responsible for the construction of the city’s South Dock, which allowed the port to take advantage of opportunities brought about by the industrial revolution.
The council's cabinet secretary Cllr Mel Speding said: “In its historic 300th anniversary year, there has been so much to celebrate about Port of Sunderland’s renaissance.
“This cable spooling operation, is vital if the port is to make the most of the multitude of opportunities that offshore wind provides, and it’s fantastic to see such a massive operation accomplished so efficiently and effectively with the minimum amount of disruption.”