Where in the World Are Those Pesky Cable Ships?
By Rebecca Spence
March 16, 2020
Welcome to the first edition and triumphant return of Where in the World are Those Pesky Cable Ships!
Once only a static table, the goal of this piece is to provide readers with a quick overview of the status of the world’s constantly flowing cable ship locations and allow them to follow their progress in each issue. SubTel Forum commenced tracking the whereabouts of 47 cable vessels across the globe this year based on information publicly available through AIS tracking. Most of these vessels are working to install new systems or maintain those already in place, leaving a small portion working on various support activities. As you read below, bear in mind that all figures are accurate to the date of publishing and by the nature of this industry will likely change in the days following.
One of the longest lead management concerns for all maritime work is time in transit, taking anywhere from a few days up to multiple months for a vessel to reach its intended destination. Project and resource managers weave transit times between projects like air traffic controllers, striking a delicate balance between effective work time, crew change overs and repair and docking requirements. Illustrated in Table 1, of the 47 vessels tracked, currently 27 percent have reached their destination. The remaining 73 percent are reporting to still be steaming towards their destinations.
Table 2 details the announced Estimated Time of Arrival for all vessels still in transit. Almost half of the vessels in transit will have reached their final destinations by the end of February. Through March another 44 percent of the 47 vessels are due to reach their destinations. Only 9 percent of the cable fleet have long lead estimations, resulting in arrivals as late as September 2020.
Tracking with current project load, the TransPacific route is currently the busiest region. East Asia, Southeast Asia, the North American West and the Coast of China, North and South Pacific account for 50 percent of the vessels our analysts are tracking. With such a large area to cover, naturally there is a higher need for more vessels to repair, replace and lay new cable. With 7 percent each, North East Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea are the subsequent regions with the highest number of vessels. The Baltic Sea, East Africa & West Africa, the Persian Gulf, and West Mediterranean are all represented but are the beginning of the smaller percentages on the chart. The remaining regions all have 3 percent or less of active ships each with the Indian Coast trailing at only 1 percent.