An Overview of Parkburn’s Contributions to the Cable Lay Market

As published in the September Issue of SubTel Forum Magazine

By Rob Cash
September 28, 2022

Parkburn Precision Handling Systems Limited is a privately owned, engineering company that specialises in the design, manufacture, installation, and service of product handling systems.

The Parkburn group was originally established in Hamilton, Scotland in 1989. Expanding significantly since its beginning, following an acquisition in 2002 of Dowty Precision Handling Systems; a new company, Parkburn Precision Handling Systems Ltd was formed.


Hydraulic 21 WP LCE in final assembly in the 1970’s

Cable Lay Technology


Parkburn have been at the forefront of the evolution of Linear Cable Engines (LCE’s) and Cable Drum Engines (CDE’s) since the late 1960’s after the company was approached by the British Post Office to assist with the design and manufacture of a fast, safe and efficient method of deploying a recovering subsea telephone communications cables with large modules (repeater nodes). In 1970 the first Linear Cable Engine (LCE) (and supporting equipment) was built, tested, and supplied for the vessel CS Alert.

Continuous product development is part of Parkburn’s DNA and has led to many improvements and refinements of both LCE and CDE technologies. The introduction of AC drive technology is a good example, utilising compact electric drives and digital controls has provided cable operators precise and smooth speed and tension control capabilities, which significantly reduces the risk of damaging the product whilst providing exceptional speed.

Example AC 2WP Cable Transporter

Example 18WP AC Linear Cable Engines (LCE)











Cable Drum Engines

Parkburn’s cable drum engine technology has also become an industry standard, essentially a large capstan drum utilizing mechanical devices such as fleeting rings and knives to correctly position the cable on the drum. The development of freely rotating fleeting rings by Parkburn during the early 1990’s has also been widely adopted by industry.

The Next Development – Self-Fleeting CDE

Parkburn’s innovation/ contribution to Cable Drum Engine Design does not stop there. Since 2012, Parkburn has been developing a self-fleeting drum concept that creates a natural helix for the cable as the drum rotates. This is achieved by merging two drums that are offset to each other where the geometry of the offsets creates the cable helix pitch within the device.

AC Electric Cable Drum Engine (CDE)

The current Parkburn CDE technology has proved to be exceptionally robust and reliable. Removing fleeting rings and fleeting knives coupled with significant reduction of moving parts can significantly improve operating costs and minimises required deck space.



1. The initial development investment has been targeted for use as a general-purpose winch for synthetic fibre rope. The self-fleeting drum offers many advantages over current winch technologies including normal direct pull drum and capstan winch systems, providing a progressive de-tensioning profile over the full wraps on the drum that minimises rope slip and fatigue. The self-fleeting removes the need for spooling devices at high loads, a common source of fatigue.

A 75Te prototype proof of concept winch was designed and built, after many months of successful testing using various ropes and cables, including steel armoured f/o cables, and the significant level of interest in the technology from many industries and clients, the decision was made to build the first production unit capable of lifting 150Te. The unit has since gone through technology qualification under DNV. This unit has been selected by MacGregor cranes as the engine for their new Fibretrac crane installed with 3500m of rope.

A combination of light weight synthetic rope and the Capstan brings to the market the first crane capable of delivering the maximum crane SWL to maximum working depth. The crane is currently being prepared for shipment to the USA to be deployed with a customer for operations in the GOM.

150Te Deep Water Capstan Fibre rope winch

150Te Deep Water Capstan Fibre rope winch

2. During the last 2 years, Parkburn have tested in conjunction with clients many telco cable configurations on the 75Te prototype system, to ensure the system can handle the various combinations of f/o cables, repeater nodes, and connection hardware seen within the industry. After successful testing Parkburn has now moved from concept to detailed design of the dedicated telco system to provide an open one-sided device allowing the drum engine to be used for direct cable lay operations including the ability to recover cables at any position within the laid spread for maintenance purposes.

OD of drum: Ø4600mm, Width of drum: 1300mm, Natural winch helix (Rope Pitch: 188mm), Number of wraps: 3, Line Speed: 8 knots (247 m/min), Drum speed: 17rpm, SWL: 40T

Self-Fleeting CDE (Watch the Self-Fleeting CDE concept here: https://youtu.be/nUTFK2ejVcw)

“Parkburn develops solutions that provide tangible benefits for its customers. The self-fleeting cable drum engine is a great example of this. We are very pleased to offer the subsea telecoms market a step-change in capability.” Andy Lawson, Parkburn Director.

Self-Fleeting CDE


Carousel Technology

In addition to Parkburn’s LCE and CDE technologies, Parkburn continues to develop its carousel product range. More recently Parkburn has been designing and manufacturing fully integrated electric drive carousel and aft lay tracked tensioner systems, primarily for offshore wind and related operations, both for marine and land-based platforms.

Parkburn systems from 1250Te to 7000Te capacity have proven extremely reliable fitted both on deck and underdeck, engineered to suit the vessels available space, deck strength and other vessel particulars, all to the required class standards and certification requirements of the project.

Dual Basket Carousel

A recent innovation by Parkburn and the client was the development of the first dual basket 7000Te system designed to lay 2 cables simultaneously and in parallel from two independently driven baskets, through 2 independent firing lines, fully synchronized in speed control, all from one operator’s control position. This fully automated system is currently in work on board the CS Maersk Connector as pictured.

Maersk Connector

About the Author

Rob Cash is Operations Manager at Parkburn Precision Handling Systems Ltd with responsibilities that include Site Manager for the Parkburn Telford design and manufacture facility and reporting to the board of directors. He possesses 28 years’ experience in the submarine cable handling systems and marine product deployment and retrievals markets.


He was part of the team that developed and delivered the world’s first all-electric drive cable handling system for the CS Bold Endeavor in 1999, and all of the subsequent vessel’s & projects and that have followed, as the world moves from analogue to digital control.


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