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Working with multiple agencies, authorities and organisations, consecutively and concurrently, often for months at a time – just another day at the office for our Permitting Team 

Wednesday 1st February 2023 | Blog written by Alex Riddell, Permitting Manager

Navigating the complex and varying permitting requirements that enable the survey, installation and potential maintenance of offshore telecommunication and power cable infrastructure is not an easy task and can seem daunting at first. Particularly as permits remain a significant risk to the project and its planning from its very inception!  

  • Which permit applications do I need?  
  • Which can run concurrently, which can’t?  
  • Which permits are reliant on others in order to apply for them?
  • How can we get the permits authorised as quickly and smoothly as possible?  
  • Which permits do I prioritise – the Permits in Principle (PiPs) or the Operational Permits? 
  • Are there other parties involved such as other cable or asset owners, environmental bodies or the fishing industry? 
  • What are the risks, how do I mitigate those risks?  

These are all questions that need to be addressed and understood so they can feed into the planning and overall management of the cable installation.  

To complicate further, the subsea cable industry is a relatively niche one and in some regions of the world, not so well known. This often means that the OceanIQ team not only focus on managing and acquiring the permits in a timely manager but also frequently communicating and educating the relevant authorities in the process as well, and this does not stop once the permit is received! In some cases, post application support and discharge of conditions is just as important as the work involved pre-application. 

Projects can take years from start to finish

A perfect example of this was the R100 project in Scotland. I started working on the permits for this cable installation project in early 2019, and since acquiring all the permits prior to installation operations in May 2022, I have only recently (December 2022) finished all associated management of the permits. This was always going to be the case with an array of marine, EPS and basking shark licenses, Zetland Licenses, Harbour Works Licenses as well as a few planning permissions thrown into the mix! 

I am personally a strong believer of early engagement and close communication with the authorities and all project stakeholders. Without a shed of doubt, this early engagement will underpin the success of the permitting scope of the project – and this has absolutely been proven in some of my recent experiences within the North Sea and Scotland.

As an example, generally any cross over between the fishing and cable industry will always result in a significant conflict if engagement is not conducted early enough – both parties rely on the ocean and seafloor for their livelihoods, yet both utilise them in very different ways. Conflicts can prove to be costly and damaging for both industries – something all parties are keen to avoid! This is also the case for the environmental bodies where prompt liaison and as much advance notice as possible has brought significant value to the project – it opens doors, creates better working relationships, a deeper understanding, and often some element of education surrounding the subsea cable industry and its role in global infrastructure and connectivity. 

To summarise, navigating the complex and varying global permitting requirements is daunting and certainly not easy but any permitting scope is achievable, with the correct experience, resource and planning which I am proud to say that OceanIQ can provide. Just another day in the office! 

Alex joined OceanIQ in 2015 and is our in-house expert on global permitting for both cable installation as well as maintenance, including emergency permits for the Atlantic Cable Maintenance Agreement (ACMA). Over the years he has worked on permitting solutions for customers and projects all over the globe including Guam, Australia, Malaysia, Egypt, Cyprus, Angola, Canada and Chile.

Author: Alex Riddell, Permitting Manager

Alex Riddell, Permitting Manager