Basslink subsea cable out until late May

Following third-party damage to its subsea cable last month, Basslink has pushed out the repair date from late mid April to late May while it repairs and re-pressurises the cable.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Basslink has announced that its subsea cable will be down until late May, with the return-to-service date delayed from April 14 following third-party damage to the system.

"We have repaired a high-pressure system within a piece of equipment at the Victorian converter station. To return the interconnector to service, we require specialised expertise and equipment to be brought in to re-pressurise this equipment," Basslink explained.

"It is a highly technical exercise. The equipment was damaged by a third-party contractor during routine works. There is no damage to the cable itself."

According to Basslink, it has "worked around the clock" with its manufacturing partners over the last week to formulate a repair and re-pressurisation process, as well as finding experts and equipment and working on logistics for carrying out the procedure.

"The Basslink team is looking at every possible opportunity to expedite the return-to-service date," the company said in a statement.

Basslink had last month announced that it would be undertaking repairs on a piece of equipment on the submarine cable, which it said was damaged by a third party "during the routine maintenance at a transition station in Victoria".

"Given the damaged equipment is unique, it will require appropriate expertise and equipment from overseas for repair before the interconnector can recommence operations," Basslink said at the time.

The outage has only affected the supply of energy, with the Basslink Interconnector continuing to provide wholesale broadband services to retailers. The incident is also unrelated to its ongoing dispute with Tasmania over the December 2015 outage.

The Tasmanian government last month said it would be seeking AU$122 million in compensatory damages from Basslink under a notice of dispute it lodged following a months-long telecommunications and energy subsea cable outage.

Basslink refuted claims by the state government that it breached the Basslink Operations Agreement (BOA) contract it has as the operator of the submarine cable, saying it "strongly denies the allegations" set out in the notice of dispute.

"Basslink will follow the dispute resolution steps set out in the BOA to resolve the dispute," the company said in March.

"However, if the dispute cannot be resolved, it would be referred to arbitration in accordance with the steps of the BOA, and Basslink intends to vigorously defend the matters raised in the notice."

According to Basslink, an independent inspector had signed off the design, construction, and commissioning requirements.

"The state, through Hydro Tasmania, was very closely involved in the design, construction, and commissioning process. This involvement included attending various meetings with both Basslink and the manufacturers," the company argued.

"Basslink maintains the cable failure was a force majeure event."

The Tasmanian government had last month threatened to take legal action against Basslink after reports from two global experts provided to Hydro Tasmania in December found the Basslink subsea cable outage of 2015-16 was caused by Basslink exceeding its design limit, which then degraded the cable.

Hydro Tasmania, a state government business enterprise that is responsible for a majority of the state's energy generation, at the time said the findings "vindicate" its decision to have the outage investigated.

Basslink responded by saying the outage was not caused by anything other than a chance occurrence.

The Basslink Interconnector was down from December 2015, with Basslink finally completing its cable jointing repairs in June 2016 following months-long delays due to excess water damage and inclement weather.

The outage had lasted so long that the Tasmanian government got involved, with Minister for Information Technology and Innovation Michael Ferguson also reprimanding TPG for not buying additional capacity on Telstra's cables during the outage.

Previous coverage

Tasmanian government seeking AU$122m from Basslink for cable outage

The Tasmanian government has lodged a notice of dispute against Basslink in an attempt to extract AU$122 million in compensation for the six-month subsea cable outage.

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