Isaac Newton: with 63 km of cable in one go the world's largest cable-laying vessel

“We are a work in progress, getting better by the day,” says Rutger Standaert. On his business card, he carries the title of ‘Technical Superintendent New Building Design’ or, in short, one of the naval architects at Jan De Nul.

Rutger was among the persons designing the Isaac Newton. Up to this very day, a good two years after its completion in 2015, this cable-laying vessel still has the highest capacity in the world. “Prior to the construction of the Isaac Newton, we already had an important learning moment – this is how we internally define the moment when you realise that a certain solution may well meet the expectations but that next time it should be even better or even more efficient.  Before we started with the Isaac Newton, we had seen how the Willem de Vlamingh had been equipped as cable-laying vessel and, above all, how this could have been done even more efficiently. Such multifunctional vessel is designed for laying cables but also for performing other tasks, for instance for digging trenches in the seabed or – as we say in our trade – trenching."

"For our multifunctional vessels, the ease and speed with which they can be converted in view of a new assignment is crucial. But there are other important aspects as well, the main one simply being their scale – expressed as the capacity to take kilometres of cable on board. We equipped the Isaac Newton not with one but two turntables – one on deck with a capacity of 7,400 tonnes and another one below deck with a capacity of 5,000 tonnes. In this way, we can – according to the needs – take on board two different cables or two parts of the same type that we can then connect on board into one continuous whole, which provides us with a great deal of flexibility.”

Also for the very first mission of the Isaac Newton, in Saudi Arabia, its capacity was a decisive factor for winning the project. “For the cable that we had to install there, we had to stretch to the limits of our upper turntable. Read: no other vessel could load that cable and install it in one piece. At this moment, the Isaac Newton is working on a project in Canada, where it is deployed not only as cable-laying vessel but also as trenching support vessel for digging in the cables.”

“On the whole, the combination of capacity and flexibility gives our commercial and operational members of staff the chance to submit very competitive bids for certain projects. As the department responsible for the construction of new vessels, we see it as our main job to build vessels that give Jan De Nul a competitive edge and allow it to tap into new markets. At the same time, we want to continue playing our part of technical pioneer. And, finally, we never forget the human aspect either. For the 70 people working and living on board of the Isaac Newton (navigating crew, cable layers, stewards, client representatives and various consultants), we wish to offer the highest possible level of comfort. When they are not at work, they deserve being pampered a bit – life at sea is hard enough as it is!”

The more cable you can take on board, the more efficient and cheaper it gets for the customer. The Isaac Newton is able to take that amount of cable on board in one go. In the end, it turned out that the selected cable supplier was not able to deliver such a long length of cable in one piece and the pieces had to be connected offshore by way of a so-called offshore joint. To this end, we equipped the Isaac Newton such that both cable ends could be connected on board using the offshore joint.

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