Understanding Submarine Cable Specifications: An In-Depth Exploration

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction to Submarine Cables

1.1 Definition and Purpose

Submarine cables play a crucial role in various underwater applications. They serve as the lifelines of communication and power transmission. Important for industries ranging from telecommunications to offshore energy production.

These marine cable specifications are designed to operate effectively. It is essential in the demanding conditions of the marine environment. It includes submersion, temperature fluctuations, and exposure to harsh elements. We see here the marine cable map here and see how the globe is connected.


To ensure their reliability and performance, submarine cables are subjected to specifications. The specifications dictate their design, materials, and performance characteristics. Submarine cables are used in a lot of applications. Some examples include submarine telecommunications, marine research, and undersea power transmission.

Their main purpose is to transmit electrical signals. They can be power or data across vast stretches of the ocean. All while maintaining the integrity of the connection.

1.2 Types of Submarine Cables

Submarine cables are not one-size-fits-all solutions. Different applications require cables with unique characteristics. Particular submarine cable specifications are needed to meet their demands. Let’s explore some common types of submarine cables.

Here we can see the main difference with each submarine cable specification:

Submarine Communication Cables

Submarine communication cables are the backbone of global telecommunications. They connect continents. This enables international data transfer. These cables must withstand the immense pressures and temperatures of the ocean depths.

So, their specifications are particularly strict. Typically, they consist of multiple layers. These are conductors, insulation, metallic shielding, and protective sheathing.

Underwater Power Cables

In offshore energy production, underwater power cables are vital in transmitting electrical power. The range goes from offshore wind farms to tidal energy installations and oil and gas platforms to the mainland.

These cables require high current carrying capacity. Thus, their insulation needs to withstand the harsh submarine environment. They combat problems like saltwater corrosion and mechanical stress.

Submarine Research Cables

Submarine research cables are used for various scientific purposes. Collecting oceanographic data and underwater monitoring require these special cables. They must be designed to withstand the corrosive effects of seawater while maintaining data transmission integrity.

Submersible Vehicle Cables

Submersible vehicles, including remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), rely on specialized submarine cables. They are required for their power supply, control, and data transmission. These cables need to be flexible, durable, and able to operate at various depths.

1.3 Importance of Submarine Cable Specifications

The submarine environment is one of the harshest and most unforgiving on Earth. We have yet to learn about what goes on 99% of the ocean floor.

Without adherence to strict submarine cable specifications, the consequences can be dire. Here are some key reasons why submarine cable specifications are of utmost importance:

Reliability and Safety

Reliability is vital in submarine applications. Malfunctioning cables can lead to communication breakdowns and power outages. 

Accidents in offshore operations can also happen because of the unreliability of these cables. Submarine cable specifications ensure that these cables meet the highest safety and reliability standards.

Environmental Protection

Marine cables are exposed to tones of elements of the sea. The corrosive saltwater, extreme temperatures and marine life all threaten marine cables.

Proper specifications ensure that cables are adequately protected against these environmental factors. This will ensure to improve their lifespan vastly.

Compliance with Regulations

Regulatory bodies often mandate submarine cable specifications. These are industry standards organizations that are highly moderated.

Compliance with these specifications is essential for obtaining necessary approvals and certifications for submarine projects. Lacking some essential specifications may result in fines and bans.


Adhering to submarine cable specifications can prevent costly downtime, maintenance, and replacement. Investing in high-quality cables upfront can save significant expenses in the long run.

Chpater 2: Design and Construction

2.1 Conductor Materials

The choice of conductor materials in submarine cables is critical. A high portion of their performance and longevity is attributed to it. Conductors are responsible for carrying electrical signals or power from one end of the cable to the other.

Submarine cables typically use copper or aluminium conductors. They are known for their excellent electrical conductivity. Copper is preferred for its superior conductivity but can be more susceptible to corrosion in saltwater environments. Aluminium is lighter and more corrosion-resistant but has slightly lower conductivity.

2.2 Insulation and Jacketing Materials

We say above the conductor materials don’t last long in seawater. Insulation and jacketing materials are crucial for protecting them and maintaining signal strength. Submarine cables often use specialized materials like polyethene (PE) and cross-linked polyethene (XLPE) for insulation.

These materials offer excellent electrical properties and resistance to moisture. The outer jacket is made of materials like polyurethane or polyethene. It provides mechanical protection and resistance to environmental factors.

2.3 Armour and Sheathing

In some submarine cable applications, additional layers of protection are required. Submarine cable armour is typically made of galvanized steel wires.

 It provides resistance against mechanical damage, including crushing and abrasion. Sheathing materials are made of polyethene or polypropylene. They help to serve as an extra barrier against moisture and environmental hazards.

Chapter 3: Electrical Characteristics

3.1 Voltage Ratings

Submarine cables must be designed to handle specific voltage levels based on what they are used for. Voltage ratings ensure that the cable can safely transmit electrical power. Otherwise, problems like overheating or breaking down can occur.

Higher voltage ratings are necessary for power transmission cables. On the other hand, communication cables may have lower voltage requirements.

3.2 Current Carrying Capacity

The current carrying capacity of a submarine cable is highly important, particularly in power transmission applications. It determines the maximum amount of electrical current the cable can safely carry without overheating.

Calculations for current carrying capacity consider multiple factors. Conductor size, insulation type, and environmental conditions all affect the current carrying capacity of a submarine cable.

3.3 Impedance and Signal Integrity

In communication cables, maintaining signal integrity is highly important. You don’t want to lose connection when talking to someone across the globe. Impedance is a measure of opposition to the flow of electrical signals. It must be carefully controlled to prevent signal degradation.

By having the impedance of the cable regulated, reliable data transmission is ensured. Submarine cable specifications define impedance values to meet the requirements of specific communication protocols.

Chapter 4: Environmental Considerations


4.1 Submersion and Waterproofing

Submarine cables are often submerged in seawater for extended periods. To prevent water leak and corrosion, submarine cable specifications include requirements for waterproofing. This may involve specialized seals or fillers to be used. The barrier materials within the cable construction help maintain a dry internal environment.

4.2 UV Resistance and Sunlight Exposure

Cables installed near the water’s surface are exposed to sunlight. Sunlight produces UV rays. These rays can lead to the degradation of cable materials over time.

To combat this, UV-resistant jackets were introduced. This and other sheathing materials are specified to protect the cable from UV radiation. With no direct sunlight on this exterior, the cable prolongs its lifespan.

4.3 Temperature and Flexibility

The submarine environment experiences a wide range of temperatures. From freezing cold in its depths to scorching heat near the equator, there is no fixed temperature at the ocean. Submarine cable specifications consider the cable’s ability to operate in fluctuating environments.

Maintaining flexibility and performance under extreme temperature conditions is specified for all marine cables. Flexible materials and design features are incorporated to accommodate temperature variations without compromising functionality.

Chapter 5: Installation and Maintenance

5.1 Installation Best Practices

Installing submarine cables correctly is crucial to their long-term performance. Proper installation techniques minimize stress on the cables.

This can prevent damage during laying and fixing of the cables. They can prevent damage over time by ensuring they remain securely anchored on the ocean floor.

Cable installation specifications cover factors such as laying depth, burial methods, and the use of protective equipment. Adhering to these specifications is essential to prevent costly cable damage and ensure the safety of installation crews.

5.2 Inspection and Maintenance

Regular inspection and maintenance are key to the longevity and reliability of submarine cables. Specifications outline inspection intervals and methods to detect potential issues. These are discussed above, like water ingress, physical damage, or insulation degradation.

Maintenance protocols may include cleaning, testing and repairing damaged cable sections. Adherence to these maintenance guidelines is critical for minimizing downtime. Catastrophic failures at this level can lead to global outages.

5.3 Repairs and Splicing

In case of cable damage or faults, specifications guide repair procedures. Repairing submarine cables underwater is a complex and challenging task. Workers required for this need specialized equipment and expertise.

Proper splicing and repair techniques are outlined in submarine cable specifications. This is to ensure that repaired sections maintain their electrical and mechanical integrity. Following these guidelines is essential to restore cable functionality and prevent service interruptions swiftly.

Chapter 6: Conclusion

Understanding submarine cable specifications is important for successfully deploying and operating undersea communication and power transmission systems. We as a society are reliant on these cables.

We can ensure these vital connections’ reliability, safety, and longevity beneath the ocean’s surface if we stick to the specification recommendations. As technology advances and our reliance on undersea infrastructure grows, the importance of rigorous cable specifications becomes the norm.