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Channelling energy from offshore wind farms

“The Borssele project was particularly challenging,” says Nearshore Project Manager Radboud Stelling. “In terms of cable installation, dredging volume, pulling techniques, technical requirements and tool development. It’s a good thing I enjoy a challenge – there were lots on this project!” The offshore wind farms off the south-eastern coast of Zeeland provide sustainable energy for the Dutch onshore grid. The energy is brought ashore through undersea and underground cables by a consortium of Boskalis, its subsidiary VBMS – now renamed Boskalis Cables – and supplier NKT Cables.

Digging deep

The specific task facing Radboud was to meet requirements for very deep cable burial in the nearshore area. “The usual depth is a maximum of three metres, but the requirement here was ten metres. We had to design a purpose-built tool. And we did it! With a lot of cooperation and support from our in-house R&D and engineering designers, we developed eight initial concepts, carried out structural checks, presented and selected the appropriate design, liaised with the cable manufacturer, checked on cable integrity when the cable passes through the tool, and achieved certification (CE marking and DNV approval). It’s a unique achievement. It’s the only existing subsea tool with this CE certification, in fact.”

The Borssele project was particularly challenging.

With his previous experience on seagoing vessels in the Merchant Navy, Radboud was already accustomed to tackling problems independently. When he joined Boskalis Cables (then VBMS) nine years ago, he discovered the added benefits of a wide-ranging organization. “The success of this project was really due to being able to call on the breadth of experience and capacity of inhouse specialists in many different areas,” he explains. “On the Borssele project, it was enormously helpful to work with R&D and Engineering; experts in dredging and cable-laying, as well as engineering and conceptual tool development. I’ve learned a lot. Sharing resources results in everyone achieving broader understanding of each other. And of the customer’s needs. We’re all involved in looking for and optimizing solutions, while remaining competitive and profitable.”

“I confronted our clients with alternatives to specified tender items occasionally, which they didn’t always like,” Radboud confesses. “But I don’t sell fairy tales. When they saw we were proposing opportunities to use better tools and methods, yet still deliver practical results, they were happy.” And it doesn’t end there, of course. “I appreciate the opportunities we have to actually become better at what we do, learning lessons that are incorporated directly into our projects,” says Radboud. “We are already working on directional drills now, which will protect the cables, get things done faster, and make more customers happy.” The cherry on the cake, for Radboud, is that he’s in a position where he doesn’t just earn a living, he’s doing it in a way that embraces alternative energy sourcing – ultimately helping to make the world a better place.