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Ship Recovers Submersible Plough to Continue BT Scotland Fibre Optic Rollout

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 (1:17 am) - Score 1,424

The cable laying ship Rene Descartes (Orange Marine), which almost two months ago lost a 8 tonne submersible plough (“Elodie“) worth £3.6m that was being used to deploy 20 new BT submarine fibre optic cables around the western side of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands region, has now fully recovered its hardware.

In September 2014 we reported (here) that the aforementioned plough had become stuck in “very soft seabed sediment” (i.e. heavy mud) some 300ft down while digging a trench for one of the new cables between Harris and Uist. Unfortunately an initial attempt to recover the plough proved to be unsuccessful after a tow wire, which was rated to handle 10 tonnes, broke.

Despite that setback the subsea work has continued, with the cable being laid out on the seabed and buried by one of the remotely operated underwater vehicles. But this is not the best / fastest approach and thus Orange Marine was tasked with creating a viable recovery plan for the plough.

Most recently ISPreview.co.uk was informed that a group of salvage experts had been brought in to recover the plough, with the first attempt being scheduled to take place during the latter half of October 2014. The plan was to excavate the seabed around the plough and then hopefully tow it to shallow water for full recovering. Happily this work has just completed and appears to have been a success.

A BTOpenreach Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

The submersible plough was fully recovered last week and reconnected to the Rene Descartes which is currently laying the penultimate of the 20 subsea cables between Dunvegan on Skye and Carnan on South Uist.

The subsea work continued while recovery of the plough was being planned, with the cable being laid out on the seabed and buried by one of the remotely operated underwater vehicles.”

The spokesperson also said that, weather permitting, the final stretch of sub-sea fibre optic cable will be laid between Jura and Craighouse before the end of November 2014. Readers can keep track of the ships progress here.

It’s hoped that the Digital Scotland programme will ensure that 85% of Scottish homes and businesses can access BT’s “high-speed fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network by the end of 2015, which will rise to around 95% by the end of 2017. However the Highland and Islands (HIE) region alone anticipates that it will only reach 84% by 2016, although more money is currently being allocated for further upgrades.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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