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Failure Of Basslink Subsea Cable ‘An Act Of God’: Report

Failure Of Basslink Subsea Cable ‘An Act Of God’: Report

A six-month investigation into the cause of the subsea cable fault that led to the December 2015 outage of the Basslink cable that carries power, along with a separate cable for telecommunications, between the mainland and Tasmania has failed to find what caused the cut, which left parts of Tasmania without regular power supplies for many months.

Releasing the results of the study yesterday, Basslink called for the event to be labelled “force majeure” – an age-old legal term sometimes also called “act of God” – which would hopefully absolve it of responsibility, and make it difficult if not impossible to be sued by its major customer, Hydro Tasmania.

Said Basslink CEO Malcolm Eccles yesterday: “We have provided the report in its entirety to Hydro Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government and trust it will provide them with sufficient expert evidence to accept that the fault was a force majeure event.

“Given this, we would like Hydro Tasmania to recommence meeting its contractual obligations to Basslink immediately.”

Tthose obligations refer to a contract between the two companies in which Hydro has paid a monthly fee to Basslink for electricity supply.

Spokesman Matthew Mahon yesterday told CDN that Hydro had ceased making these payments in September, claiming the agreement between the two had been breached.

If force majeure is accepted – and Basslink’s insurance company reckons that’s a must – there’s no breach of agreement, and Basslink can presumably insist on resumption of the payments – in court, presumably, if it has to.

The cable investigation was carried out by Cable Consulting International, a UK-based company regarded as one of the world’s leading submarine power cable experts, Basslink says.

CCI determined that the fault had occurred within the cable; it was not at a location of a joint, or a lead sheath-to-armour bond, and there was no evidence of any pre-existing damage.

The length of time taken for the investigation reflected both the meticulous investigation approach undertaken by CCI as well as the efforts taken to attempt to derive further visibility on the fault cause, which unfortunately is still concluded as “cause unknown”, Basslink says. – DF

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