Belgian Company Builds World’s Largest Cable-Laying Vessel with $200 Million Investment

In a bid to reassert its dominance in the field of offshore cable laying, Belgian-Luxembourg hydraulic engineering company Jan De Nul has made a resounding statement with a significant investment of over $200 million. The company, which briefly relinquished its status as the owner of the world’s largest cable-laying vessel, is set to regain its leading position by ordering an unprecedented vessel that will revolutionize the industry.

This colossal maritime achievement, christened the “Fleeming Jenkin,” pays homage to the pioneering Scottish engineer and inventor who laid cables on the Mediterranean seabed in the 19th century. What sets the Fleeming Jenkin apart from its peers is its revolutionary design featuring not one or two but three megabobines, dramatically increasing its combined carrying capacity to an astonishing 28,000 tons. This is double the capacity of the previous record-holder, Prysmian’s Leonardo Da Vinci.

Philippe Hutse, the director of Jan De Nul’s offshore energy division, described this endeavor as a “giant leap” for the company. The installation of three megabobines enables the Fleeming Jenkin to lay power cables across seabeds spanning over 900 kilometers in one uninterrupted operation. This significant increase in efficiency will undoubtedly provide Jan De Nul with a substantial competitive edge in the burgeoning market for connecting offshore wind farms and interconnecting countries.

Hutse emphasized the growing importance of transporting power over longer distances, particularly with the expansion of renewable energy. Interconnectors between countries, such as those between the UK, Norway, and various European nations, are becoming increasingly vital. Ambitious projects like the proposed 4,000-kilometer cable between Morocco and the UK or the Australia-Singapore interconnector are set to harness wind and solar energy where it’s most abundant.

One of the pivotal advantages of a larger cable-laying vessel is its ability to lay the entire cable in one go, eliminating the need for mid-sea cable splicing, which can be vulnerable points for potential damage. This innovation aligns with Jan De Nul’s goal of connecting wind farms located farther out to sea, ensuring robust and reliable power transmission.

Orders for the Fleeming Jenkin have already been placed, and the vessel will be constructed at China’s CMHI Haimen shipyard, with plans for commissioning by 2026. This timeline coincides perfectly with the surge in new wind farm installations across Europe.

The 215-meter-long Fleeming Jenkin represents the pinnacle of Jan De Nul’s recent investments. Earlier in the year, the company commissioned the Voltaire and Les Alizés, dedicated installation and crane vessels, designed for the installation of the largest wind turbines and foundations at sea. However, the offshore energy market is currently navigating challenging waters. Turbine manufacturers, including Vestas, Siemens, and GE, are grappling with heavy losses, while developers are facing price hikes.

Despite these headwinds, Hutse maintains that there’s no turning back. He acknowledges the industry’s struggle due to disrupted supply chains from the pandemic and geopolitical tensions but underlines the urgency of scaling up green energy to meet climate goals and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Jan De Nul’s strategic vision focuses on organic growth, reinvesting profits into the company without relying on external financing. With the addition of the Fleeming Jenkin, the company aims to attain a remarkable 25 percent global market share, putting it on par with its three main competitors: DEME, Boskalis, and Van Oord combined.

Jan De Nul’s ambitious investment in the Fleeming Jenkin is a testament to the company’s commitment to the offshore energy market and a bold step forward in advancing the renewable energy sector. As the world races towards sustainable solutions, this remarkable vessel will play a pivotal role in connecting nations and harnessing clean energy sources across vast distances.

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