Cable ship back to finish Northumberland Strait work

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Thick ice could affect Maritime Electric work in the Northumberland Strait

The huge cable-laying ship the Isaac Newton arrived back in Charlottetown Harbour Monday morning, to finish work started last fall burying two giant cables for Maritime Electric in the Northumberland Strait.

The work, which began in November, was supposed to be finished before the new year, but the company installing the cables ran into equipment problems, and much of the cable hasn't been buried yet.

"We have about 20 kilometres of the cable to actually trench between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick," said Kim Griffin of Maritime Electric. "All of the cable has been laid, it's sitting on the floor of the Northumberland Strait. So now they have to focus on really trenching it and making sure it's buried and protected."

The machine that puts the cable in the trench kept breaking down, according to Griffin. 

"The fact that the machine wasn't as efficient, and didn't seem to be working that often, that was really one of the fundamental reasons why the project was delayed," she said.

The company doing the work, LS Cable, thought it would be able to finish in January, but ice arrived in the strait two weeks earlier than usual, forcing the ship to move out and winter in Halifax.

Company should cover delay costs

The delays and overruns shouldn't have to be covered by Maritime Electric, taxpayers or ratepayers, said Griffin.

"At this point, this is all in our contract," she said. "LS Cable is the company that is responsible to not only manufacture but install and ultimately protect the cable. So the province of P.E.I. has not taken ownership of the cable. It still belongs to LS Cable."

It's believed there is between 27 and 35 days of work left to finish the job, Griffin said. Representatives from Maritime Electric will be on the ship to monitor the progress of the work.

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