[WATCH] Marine survey for second interconnector between Malta and Sicily gets underway

Marine survey for second subsea electricity cable between Malta and Sicily gets underway

The specialised vessel will be scanning a 600m-wide corridor along the 100km route between Malta and Sicily where the undersea electricity cable will be laid
The specialised vessel will be scanning a 600m-wide corridor along the 100km route between Malta and Sicily where the undersea electricity cable will be laid

Works on Malta’s submarine electricity cable with Sicily have started with a preliminary marine route survey of the seabed.

On Thursday, the 60-metre vessel Urbano Monti sailed out of the Grand Harbour to start surveying a 600-metre-wide corridor of seabed along the proposed interconnector route.

The route stretches for around 100km from Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq to Marina di Ragusa, in Sicily. The maximum seabed depth of this route is expected to be 160m.

The offshore works are being done by Interconnect Malta (ICM), a government-owned company set up last year to develop the infrastructure related to the second interconnector and the hydrogen-ready gas pipeline between Malta and Sicily.

Malta already has an underwater electricity cable with Sicily that was energised in 2015. However, government has decided to install a second interconnector to ensure security of supply and additional electricity supply to meet growing demand.

Nearshore survey works started in Sicily last week using a smaller vessel, whereas nearshore surveying at Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, Malta will commence shortly. Depending on weather conditions, the offshore survey will continue until mid-October.  The contractor will then proceed with data analysis and reporting.

The preliminary marine survey is essential because it will provide bathymetric, geophysical, and geotechnical information to plot the safest and most sustainable route of the submarine cable. It will also provide the required data to design the cable burial methods and physical protection for the overall electrical scheme.

Interconnect Malta said on Friday that the preliminary route was designed to avoid sites of ecological importance as well as bunkering, aquaculture, touristic, fishing, and trawling areas, and other restricted zones.

“To ensure effective redundancy, the design also keeps this cable as far away as technically possible from Interconnector 1, the first subsea electricity cable between the two countries energised in 2015,” the company said.

ICM contracted the Italian surveying company Fugro S.p.A to conduct the preliminary survey earlier this year, following an international call for tenders. It will be using the offshore survey vessel Urbano Monti, which is equipped with state-of-the-art positioning, multibeam echo-sounder, side scan sonar, sub-bottom profiler, magnetometer, ROV, gravity coring, cone penetrometer, sample collecting and other equipment necessary to carry out a high-quality survey according to the project requirements.