On the 23rd December 2019, the Malta-Sicily Interconnector suffered extensive damage which resulted in a nationwide powercut. The Interconnector is an important element of the energy mix for the supply of electricity for the Maltese Islands to ensure the security of supply and the economic production of electricity. As an immediate action, Enemalta made all necessary repairs arrangements, initially by commissioning a survey to establish the extent of the damages incurred, while also ascertaining reliability of supply by keeping, at all times a spinning reserve of generation power plant equivalent to the largest generation asset in service.
Nexans Norway, the original equipment manufacturer of the high-voltage cable, was commissioned to carry out the submarine cable inspection survey to establish the location and the extent of the damage, as well as to formulate the plan of action to be undertaken to repair the cable. The survey ship MV Polar King was commissioned to carry out the survey and determine the complicated and one-off nature of the repair, given the size of the cable itself and the depth at which the damage occurred.
The video footage of the survey provided reasonable evidence that the cable was damaged by an anchor. The vessel that is believed to have caused the damage has been identified, and the vessel’s protection and imdemnity (P&I) insurance has been approached, and a letter of undertaking has been submitted .
The Interconnector repair programme commenced this week with the finalisation of the repairs contract with Nexans Norway, the mobilisation of all assets essential for the repair and the certification by Nexans of all spare parts and equipment.
The repair vessels will berth in Malta today to commence the loading of materials, equipment and specialists from Nexans and Enemalta, while on Sunday de-burial operation to uncover the cable will commence. One end at a time, the severed cable shall be lifted up to the repair vessel, where it shall be cut to remove the damaged cable length, jointed to one end of approximately 2km long spare cable, and lowered down back to the seabed. The same procedure shall be repeated with the other end of the severed cable.
The testing and subsequent energisation of the repaired cable is expected to take place by the 3rd week of March whereby, the Malta-Sicily Interconnector shall be made available to be dispatched to deliver energy. During the subsequent four weeks, the necessary cable protection and burial will take place while guard vessels will oversee this procedure.
All dates indicated are subject to favourable weather conditions.
Finally, the cable shall be buried, and the commissioned naval assets demobilised. The cost of repair is estimated at €11 million.