Ship connects east to west on maiden voyage
SHE is longer than Croke Park, weighs a hefty 20,000 tonnes and yesterday dwarfed ferries and cargo ships as she slipped out of Dublin Port.
The 'AMC Connector', the world's largest cable-laying vessel, had her debut in the Irish Sea yesterday as she began work on the last phase of EirGrid's east-west interconnector.
It was the Norwegian ship's first job, and after three weeks laying cables between Ireland and Britain, she will move on and ply her trade around the world.
She will lay a bundle of three cables -- two power cables and a fibre optic cable -- along a 100km route from North Beach in Rush, Co Dublin, to Barkby Beach in Wales.
However, there was drama yesterday when a woman was airlifted to hospital from the vessel after she began to have chest pains.
The Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre in Dublin took charge of the med-evac mission and scrambled the Coast Guard helicopter.
The woman was airlifted to Tallaght Hospital and it is understood she was in a stable condition on arrival.
The 'AMC Connector' has a crew of 120 who work in shifts 24 hours a day.
Following in her wake is a second vessel, which will use remotely-operated vehicles to bury the bundle in the seabed to a depth of between one and two metres.
"EirGrid has to deliver the interconnector by October 2012, and the marine part is the last piece in the jigsaw," explained an EirGrid spokeswoman.
"One of the key priorities was that this marine ship was built in time. It will go on to build the supergrid around Europe and the world.
"All the land cable -- 46km of it -- has been laid, as has the low water cable into the sea," she added.
"This morning the ship was picking up one end of the cable and jointing it to the land cable."
The east-west interconnector is the first from Ireland to Britain -- although the Moyle interconnector has linked the North to Scotland since 2001.
EirGrid said that the new interconnector would "revolutionise" the Irish energy market.