Cable Ships Baron & Knight

A tour of a modern cable ship

Authored / Pictures by: Martin Leduc

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People in Nanaimo might be surprise to know that the ships tied up at the Port of Nanaimo are some of the most technologically advance cable layers in the world. The CS Baron and CS Knight have been part of the waterfront landscape in this coastal Vancouver Island community for the better part of 2003 and 2004, and plan to stay for a few more years. 

At the time of their order, both ships were to serve under long term contracts with Tyco Submarine Systems. Unfortunately for the Dutch company that owns them, Dockwise (best known as heavy-lift marine transportation specialists) their completion from the South Korean yard, Hyundai Mipo Shipyard, could have not come at a worse time. With the failure of Worldcom, the entire "tech bubble" deflated and the market for high tech sub-sea fiber optic also collapsed, also partly because of more efficient use of current sub-sea cable installations.

The contract for the two ships was awarded in February 2000, and the Knight's keel was laid on November 15th, 2000, and delivered in August 2001. The Baron was delivered in May 2002. 

Baron & Knight are 13,340-dwt, deep seabed cable-laying vessels with an overall length of 146.5m, a breadth of 21m and a depth of 17.1m. They can carry 4,300 cubic meters of cable, and are equipped with Hawaiian based Makai Lay precision cable laying capability. This is made with the help of a state-of-the-art dynamic positioning system that can be operated by automatic satellite navigation.

At the time of our visit in early 2004, the ships were manned by a skeleton crew of Dutch officers (although many in Dockwise are Ukrainians), and the ratings were Philippinos. On a side note, Dockwise has recently changed the management of their vessels to Anglo Eastern Ship Management.

Looking up the port side from forward, the CS Knight's superstructure, with the bridge and stack.
Welcome aboard Cable Ship Knight.
On the bridge looking to stb. with the main ship controls forward facing. On the center console you can see the multiple manual thruster controls.
On the bridge looking aft to the "working bridge".
The aft bridge console. The Dynamic Position station is nearest.
The main mess hall onboard.
The large galley to accommodate the entire crew and sub contractors (60+) during an operation.
Surprisingly enough, the accountants haven't taken away this last bit of personality of the ship's company. Company crested chinaware.
Our tour guide, next to a "feeding slot" of the cable hold. Inside the massive enclosed, cable working hangar running pretty much the length of the ship.
Cable tensioning equipment, on the main deck (hangar) aft.
A shot of the cable holds. Viewed from the top through the feeding slot.
Inside the cable laying control room. 
Inside the plow control room facing aft. Outside the window you can see part of the "A Frame" and the plow on the deck. 
Cable tensioning equipment, on the main deck (hangar).
This shot is facing aft from the bridge, shows the back deck. In the fore ground on the stb side, mountings for a ROV. The port side shows the general purpose crane, behind it, in the white structures, are the plow's winch, the plow is behind that. 
The very large plow is stowed on the back deck, port side. It is pulled by the ship and can bury the cable several meters into the seabed. It is lowered by the massive stern "A Frame", part of it visible lower right.
Looking forward at the superstructure, from the back deck.
At dusk, on our way home.
What it's all about. Tiny fiber optics encased in plastic and steel.

Our visit was not planned so it was a very pleasant surprise to be welcomed onboard and given a brief tour. Unfortunately I didn't write down the name of our friendly tour guide - I do apologies and please accept our sincere Thank you. Hopefully I will have a chance to visit again to get a look at this modern Diesel electric engine room.

Update 05.2010 

A visitor sent me an email asking me to follow up on these two ships. As it turns out both vessels were sold and now are pipelayers working in the energy sector.

The CS Knight is now the NIS flagged, DNV classed Polar Queen. It is owned and operated by GC Rieber of Norway. The company's website states...

" The largest vessel of our fleet – the 146 meter long ‘Polar Queen’ , was  built in 2001 and purchased by GC Rieber Shipping in 2005.  The vessel has previously undertaken ROV and cable trenching work globally. The vessel was in 2006/07 converted to a state-of-the-art umbilical & flow line vessel for global operations and is on a long term charter to Acergy until 2012."

* Acergy is the renamed Stolt Offshore.

    Ship of the Day blog has the following information...

" The Polar Queen (IMO: 9230414, Port of Registry: Bergen, Norway)is one of the most advanced flexlay and subsea construction ships available. She is owned and operated by Rieber Shipping ASA, Norway. The vessel is equipped with a 300 mt offshore crane, a deck suitable for a EH101 helicopter, has 2 work class ROVs installed, 2 x 1600 mt carousels with heavy duty spooling system below work deck, has a layspeed of up to 1000 m/hr and can provide accomodation to a maximum of 117 persons. The latest news about the Polar Queen is that Stolt Offshore entered into an agreement with Rieber Shipping to charter the the ship for a firm period of 6 years, plus one 3 year option thereafter. The Polar Queen will be modified to make her suit Stolt's operational requirements. Capabilities will include flexlay installation and subsea structure installation in water depths of 2000 m and beyond. It is 146 metres long, 27 metres wide and has a clear working deck of 1660 m2.

The Polar Queen is scheduled to arrive this evening at Damen Shipyards, Schiedam, where it will be refit as mentioned before. "

The Polar Queen details are as follows:

IMO number : 9230414
Name of ship : POLAR QUEEN (since 01-02-2005), KNIGHT prior
Call Sign : LAEH6
MMSI : 257546000
Gross tonnage : 14502 (since 01-07-2007)
DWT : 13129
Type of ship : Pipe-Layer (since 01-12-2006)
Year of build : 2001
Flag : Norway International Ship Register (since 01-02-2005)


The CS Baron is now the Caesar, also a pipelayer, working under the Helix Energy banner, and is classed by Lloyds. The Houston based energy services company markets this Dutch owned ship, flying the Vanuatuan flag. In my view, its now a horrible looking ship, but then again its not how it looks, its what its capable of doing.

Here's what Helix writes about it on their website

" CAESAR- Coming in 2010 - The 480 foot long S-lay pipeline installation vessel Caesar is a world-class platform for installing various diameter pipelines in shallow and deepwater. The versatile vessel offers a range of depth configurations with a variable-radius stinger (70 to 300 meters) and adjustable length (70 and 100 meters). The Caesar can lay pipe from 6-inch to 42-inch OD. With its 400-ton tension capacity, the vessel can install pipe in water depths in excess of 6,500 feet, and install large diameter trunk lines in shallow water. With transit speeds of about 14 knots, the Caesar is readily available for service around the world. "

The ship completed her sea trials on the 26th October, 2009, after conversion at the COSCO Nantong Shipyard located in China's Yangtze River Delta Region. Cosco writes on their website...

" The newly converted cable laying vessel is 210m in length, 30m in breadth, 17m in depth and is to LR class. She will be capable of laying cables with a maximum diameter of 1.2m in up to 3,000 ft of water and will maintain her position and heading using 5 propellers automatically controlled by her "DP3" dynamic positioning and mooring system.

So far the project team has completed the conversion of the hull structure, the new building and installation of the pipe layer and the pipe carrier and the new building of the living quarters. 40 kilometres of cables have been laid and 1,7000 pipes have been installed. The dynamic positioning system, sailing system and many other pieces of equipment on board have been upgraded and tested. "

The Caesar's details are as follows:

IMO number : 9241712
Name of ship : CAESAR (since 01-06-2006)
Call Sign : YJUU8
MMSI : 576233000
Gross tonnage : 27082 (since 01-11-2009)
DWT : 13360
Type of ship : Pipe-Layer (since 01-11-2009)
Year of build : 2002
Flag : Vanuatu (since 01-06-2006)

Picture from