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Utility Sues Uni-Tankers Over Severed Power Cable to Bornholm

Bornholm power cable cut
ROV image of the severed end of the Bornholm power cable on the seabed (Energinet)

Published Jul 31, 2023 4:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Danish island of Bornholm is a strategic outpost in the Baltic, and last year it became a watchword for subsea infrastructure security: just off its shores, three out of four of Gazprom's Nord Stream gas pipelines were blown up by unknown actors, severing a symbol of European energy ties to Russia. But months before the attacks, Bornholm's residents got a sense of the vulnerability of subsea connections when an anchor severed their main power supply, a subsea cable connecting the island to the Swedish power grid. That incident is now the subject of a lawsuit against vessel operator Uni-tankers.

At 06:17 in the morning on February 26, 2022, Bornholm and its 40,000 residents lost electrical power. One of three submarine cables operated by Danish utility Energinet had been severed by a dragged anchor. An old standby powerplant on the island was reactivated within six hours, and it helped provide electricity for the following month. 

The damage to the cable was extensive, according to Energinet, and it took until March 26, 2022 to restore it to service. About 2.5 miles of cable had to be replaced and spliced in. 

This month, Energinet filed suit against vessel operator Uni-tankers in connection with the damage. The utility is seeking $5.6 million in damages in connection with the outage and the cable repair. Uni-tankers has confirmed that its product tanker Samus Swan was in the area at the time of the break, but not whether the vessel may have been involved. AIS data (below) shows that the vessel passed between Sweden and Bornholm at the time in question, making about 9-10 knots. 

Samus Swan, 0618 local time / 0518 GMT,  February 26, 2022 (Pole Star)

The court may take until 2024 to hear the civil case, according to Energinet. 

Bornholm lost power a second time in October 2022, one month after the Nord Stream attacks. While the shutdown prompted concerns of a second cable-cut incident, it turned out to be a local fault and power was quickly restored, Energinet said.