Cable layer

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CS Cable Innovator at anchor in Astoria, Oregon showing modern design without bow sheaves.
CS Hooper, the World's first purpose-built cable-laying ship, built by C. Mitchell & Co of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1873, renamed CS Silvertown in 1881
CS Dependable at Astoria, Oregon, a modern stern sheave design.

A cable layer or cable ship is a deep-sea vessel designed and used to lay underwater cables for telecommunications, electric power transmission, or other purposes. Cable ships are distinguished by large cable sheaves[1] for guiding cable over bow or stern or both. Bow sheaves,[2] some very large, were characteristic of all cable ships. Newer ships are tending toward pure stern layers with stern sheaves only as seen in the photo of CS Cable Innovator at the Port of Astoria on this page. The names of cable ships are often preceded by "C.S." as in CS Long Lines.[3]

The first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid by cable layers from 1857–58. It briefly enabled telecommunication between Europe and North America before misuse resulted in failure of the line. In 1866 the SS Great Eastern successfully laid two transatlantic cables, securing future communication between the continents.

Modern Cable Ships[edit]

Modern cable ships differ greatly from their predecessors. There are two types of cable ships: cable repair ships and cable-laying ships. A cable repair ship, like the Japanese Tsugaru Mari, tends to be smaller and more precise; it is capable of laying cable, but its primary job is fixing or repairing broken sections of cable. A cable-laying ship like the Long Lines is designed to lay new cables. Such ships are bigger than the repair ships and less maneuverable, however; their cable storage drums are also larger and are set in parallel so one drum can feed into another laying cable much faster. These ships are also equipped with a liner cable engine (LCE) that helps them lay cable quickly.

The newest design of ships though is a combination of cable layer ships and repair ships. An example is the USNS Zeus, the only U.S naval cable layer/repair ship. The Zeus (T-ARC-7) uses two diesel electric engines that produce 5000 horsepower each and can carry her up to 15 knots (about 25 miles per hour) and she can lay about 1000 miles of telecommunications cable to a depth of 9000 feet. The purpose of the Zeus was to have a cable ship that could do anything the job needed it to do, so the ship was built to be able to laying and retrieve cable from either the bow or the stern with ease. This design was similar to that of the first cable ship the Great Eastern . Also the Zeus was built to be as maneuverable as possible so it can fulfill both roles as a cable layer and a cable repair ship. [4]

Equipment of Cable ships[edit]

To ensure that Cable is laid and retrieved properly specialized designed equipment must be used. Different equipment is used on cable laying ships depending on what their job requires. In order to retrieve damaged or miss-laid cable a grapple system is need to gather the cable from the ocean floor. There are several types of grapples each with certain advantages or disadvantages. These grapples are attached to the vessel via a grapple rope, this originally was a mix of steel and manila lines, but now is made from synthetic materials. This ensures that the line is strong yet can flex and strain under the weight of the grapple, the line is pulled up by reversing the Liner Cable Engine used to lay the cable.[5]


The most common laying engine in use is the Liner Cable Engine (LCE). The LCE is used to feed the cable down to the ocean floor this device can also be reversed and used to bring back up cable that needs to be repaired. These engines can feed 800 feet of cable a minute however the ship is limited to a speed of 8 knots while laying cable to ensure the cable lays on the sea floor properly and to compensate for any small adjustments in course that might affect the cables position, which must carefully mapped so it can be found again if it needs to be repaired. Liner Cable Engines are also equipped with a brake system that allows the flow of cable to be controlled or stopped if a problem arises. A common way of doing this is using a fleeting drum, a mechanical drum fitted with eoduldes (raise surfaces on the drum face) that help slow and guide the cable into the LCE.[6] Cable ships also use “plows” that are suspended under the vessel. These plows use jets of high pressure water to bury the cable 3 feet under the sea floor, which prevent fishing vessels from snagging a cable as thrall their nets.[7]


HMTS[8] Monarch (renamed CS Sentinel 13 October 1970)[1] completed the first transatlantic telephone cable, TAT-1 in 1956[9] from Scotland to Nova Scotia for Britain's General Post Office (GPO).

In addition to cable layer ships, there are cable repairing ships which were tasked with finding and repairing under sea cables that broke or for whatever reason became inoperable. [10] [11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b http://atlantic-cable.com/Cableships/Monarch%284%29/ | History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
  2. ^ http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/27/09270209.jpg | NavSource Photo, USS Neptune (ARC 2) bow sheaves
  3. ^ http://atlantic-cable.com/CableStories/Parrish/index.htm |Leo Parrish and CS Long Lines (working TAT-5)
  4. ^ Sanderlin, T., Stuart, W., & Jamieson,D,R., .(1979).Cable Laying Ship.Presented at the April 18, 1979, meeting of Chesapeake Section of The Society of Naval Architects and marine Engineers.
  5. ^ Thomas N. Sanderlin, Stuart M. Williams & Robert D. Jamieson.(1979).Cable Laying Ship.Presented at the April 18, 1979, meeting of Chesapeake Section of The Society of Naval Architects and marine Engineers.
  6. ^ Thomas N. Sanderlin, Stuart M. Williams & Robert D. Jamieson.(1979).Cable Laying Ship.Presented at the April 18, 1979, meeting of Chesapeake Section of The Society of Naval Architects and marine Engineers.
  7. ^ Frank, D. Messia; Jon, B. Machin; Jeffery, A.Hill. (2000). The Economic Advantages of Jet-Assisted Plowing.Source: Oceans Conference Record (IEEE), v 1, p 649-656, 2001; ISSN: 01977385; DOI: 10.1109/OCEANS.2001.968800; Conference: Oceans 2001 MTS/IEEE - An Ocean Odyssey, November 5, 2001 - November 8, 2001; Sponsor: Marine Technology Society; IEEE; OES; Publisher: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
  8. ^ http://www.hmts-alert.org.uk/ |A short introduction to cable ships - See HMTS.
  9. ^ http://atlantic-cable.com/Cables/speed.htm | History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications - Cable Signalling Speed and Traffic Capacity
  10. ^ Popular Mechanics, April 1930, pg 621 various drawing and cutaways of cable repair ship operations
  11. ^ http://www.iscpc.org/information/Cableships_1.htm

External links[edit]