Published on 09th August 2023
A cable laying vessel (CLV) is a deep sea-going vessel specifically designed to lay underwater cables on the ocean floor for electric power transmission, military, telecommunications, or other purposes.
A CLV is otherwise known as a “cable layer,” “cable ship,” or a “cable laying ship.”
In 1866, the famed steamship SS Great Eastern successfully laid two transatlantic cables—securing future communication between Europe and North America.
CS Silvertown is another well-known cable ship that is said to have laid 1,500 miles of cable between Auckland and Sydney and the San Francisco-Honolulu Pacific Cable.
The two main types of cable ships are:
While cable laying ships are bigger with larger cable storage drums designed to lay new cables, cable repair ships are smaller and more maneuverable with the primary job of fixing or repairing broken cable sections.
Apart from cable transportation and installation, cable laying vessels are used along with trenching tools for digging in cables and umbilicals.
A CLV is fitted with a variety of equipment and systems, including a carousel system and deck equipment like an A-frame, a winch, a knuckle-boom crane, and a provision crane to conduct various subsea missions.
The new-generation cable laying vessels not only offer ample working spaces and recreational areas for crew and visitors but are also designed to improve overall project efficiency.
Modern CLVs are equipped with advanced features like dynamic positioning and dynamic tracking systems to track the cable route precisely for laying underwater cable lines.
Furthermore, cable laying ships are considered key enablers of a carbon-neutral world by incorporating sustainable technologies into cable lay vessel development—significantly reducing harmful emissions.
CLVs are indispensable for various offshore oil and gas, offshore wind farm, telecom, and other applications.
Keep reading to learn more about the key players in the CLV market.
Table of Contents
Global Top 8 Cable Laying Vessel (CLV) Companies 
Global Marine Group
Jan De Nul Group
Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V.
Van Oord Dredging and Marine Contractors B.V.
Blackridge Research & Consulting – Global Cable Laying Vessel Market Report
Here are the world’s leading cable laying vessel companies (ranking is based on CLV fleet size):
Location: Chelmsford, United Kingdom
With a legacy of 170+ years in deep and shallow water operations, the Global Marine Group is an industry-leading provider of engineering and underwater services for the O&G, offshore renewables, power, and deep-sea research sectors.
In 1860, Global Marine (under the Great Eastern banner) was credited with installing the world’s first transatlantic undersea cable.
Global Marine’s worldwide projects demonstrate industry-leading services across its three brands—Global Marine, CWind, and OceanIQ.
Global Marine provides subsea fiber optic cable installation and maintenance solutions to the telecoms and O&G sectors.
As a high-quality, strategic partner, Global Marine offers comprehensive installation, maintenance, and emergency repair solutions with proven capabilities to plan, install, bury, store, test, find, recover, and maintain subsea fiber optic cables.
Global Marine is stated to own “the world’s largest independent marine contracting fleet,” comprising three specialist cable installation vessels, four repair and maintenance vessels, and long-term charter vessels.
CWind delivers wind farm project services, CTVs (Crew Transfer Vessels), and GWO (Global Wind Organisation)-accredited training courses to the offshore renewables industry.
OceanIQ provides best-in-class subsea cable data, route engineering, survey, and permitting and consultancy services for power cable installation and telecom projects.
Here is a selection of the Global Marine Group’s worldwide projects:
Saipem – Papua New Guinea (Telecoms)
Wikinger – Baltic Sea (Offshore Renewables)
GF1 Interconnector (Power)
VENUS – Vancouver Island (Deep Sea Research)
Ørsted – TP Gate Retrofits (Offshore Renewables)
DKF Route Development (Offshore Renewables)
SGSCS – Latin America (Telecoms)
Humber Gateway (Offshore Renewables)
Xlinks DTS (Power)
Tampnet 4 – North Sea (Oil & Gas)
Westermost Rough (Offshore Renewables)
Kincardine Route Development (Offshore Renewables)
Tampnet MCCS – North Sea (Oil & Gas)
The Global Marine Group continues to deliver customer-centric solutions with a commitment to engineering a clean and connected future.
Location: Milan, Italy
Prysmian Group (also known as “Prysmian”) is a world-renowned energy and telecom cable systems company with 100+ years of experience and a diversified business portfolio.
Operating in over 50 countries, the Group manufactures medium- and low-voltage cables for the construction and infrastructure sectors, as well as thousands of miles of submarine and underground cables and systems for power T&D.
Additionally, Prysmian Group produces a wide range of connectivity systems, copper cables, and optical fiber cables for data, video, and voice transmission for the telecommunications sector.
Over the years, Prysmian Group has undertaken a comprehensive HVDC development program of stringent testing and extensive trials.
Furthermore, the Group has extensive knowledge of submarine cable laying with three specialized cable laying vessels already in operation:
Leonardo da Vinci (Prysmian’s fourth cable laying vessel)
Leonardo da Vinci is stated to be “the most capable cable layer in the market” that will “support the Prysmian Group’s long-term growth in the submarine cable installation business and strengthen its leadership in the offshore wind farm and interconnection markets.”
The VARD Group (a subsidiary of the Fincantieri Group) has built Leonardo da Vinci—believed to be “the world’s largest cable laying ship” representing an overall investment of more than €170 million.
Prysmian has entirely developed and designed the vessel’s cable handling and installation equipment to achieve higher precision in submarine cable operations.
The new strategic asset features a range of Prysmian’s high-tech installation and burial equipment, including the Heavy Duty Plough, Hydroplow, Otter, and Sea Mole.
Crafted for the most challenging cable installation works globally, Leonardo da Vinci is armored with composite material based on aramid fibers and equipped to execute the deepest power cable installations of up to 3,000 meters.
Leonardo da Vinci’s cutting-edge features include:
As a global leader in subsea cable manufacturing and installation, Prysmian plays a key role in power grid infrastructure development and upgrades to support the transition to renewable energy sources.
For example, Prysmian has undertaken cable installation work for the ground-breaking Vineyard Wind 1 project termed “the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S.”
Location: Aalst, Belgium
Jan De Nul Group (Jan De Nul) is a Belgian family-owned company specializing in the construction and maintenance of maritime infrastructure.
With expertise in marine and dredging works, as well as civil engineering, environmental, and brownfield development projects, Jan De Nul is considered a tier-one marine contractor offering overall solutions that shape both water and land.
Jan De Nul’s CLV fleet includes the Connector—one of the world’s largest and most advanced subsea installation and construction vessels with a proven track record of installing power cables, umbilicals, and risers.
The Connector can operate down to 3,000 meters of water depth with superior maneuverability and a high transit speed for worldwide operations.
Additionally, the Connector has a spacious deck area and crane coverage to enable high-voltage cable splicing.
While Jan De Nul’s Isaac Newton can install up to 10,700 t of cable in the cable-laying mode, Willem de Vlamingh is designed to operate as a CLV, a (rock) trenching vessel, or a combination of these modes.
Jan De Nul’s cable laying vessels include:
Name of the Vessel
Type of the Vessel
DP2 Cable Laying/Trenching Support Vessel
7,400 t (above deck)
5,000 t (below deck)
DP3 Ultra Deepwater Multipurpose, Flex-Lay Subsea Construction Vessel
6,000 t (above deck)
4,000 t (below deck)
Willem de Vlamingh
DP2 Cable Laying/Trenching Support Vessel
Hollandse Kust west Alpha (HKwA) Project
According to a company news release, Jan De Nul’s CLV Isaac Newton, Moonfish (a custom-built tool), and Adhémar de Saint-Venant (a multipurpose vessel) were deployed to install and bury submarine cables as part of the HKwA (Hollandse Kust west Alpha) project in collaboration with LS Cable & System (one of the world’s biggest cable manufacturers).
Location: Papendrecht, Netherlands
Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V. (also known as “Boskalis”) is a globally leading dredging contractor and marine services provider specializing in maritime infrastructure construction and maintenance services, such as:
With operations in 90+ countries across 6 continents, Boskalis’ diverse activity range includes:
As a specialist provider of cost-effective, tailored subsea solutions, Boskalis offers integrated services to a varied client base in the offshore energy industry and operates a global fleet of diving and construction support vessels.
Boskalis provides the following services for subsea projects:
Boskalis’ CLV fleet includes a dedicated cable laying vessel along with two multipurpose cable laying vessels capable of supporting a wide range of related activities, such as:
Boskalis offers the following cable laying and multipurpose vessels:
Cable laying vessel
Cable laying/multipurpose vessels
Cable lay barges
In addition, the standard outfitting of Boskalis’ multipurpose CLVs includes a six-point mooring system. While the Ndeavor is equipped with a helicopter deck, the Ndurance is suitable for worldwide cable-laying activities.
Location: Oslo, Norway
Seaway7 is an offshore wind subsidiary of the Subsea7 Group (the offshore installation giant) and a global leader in delivering bottom-fixed offshore wind farm solutions.
Since 2009, Seaway7 has been active in the offshore renewable energy industry—installing its first WTG (Wind Turbine Generator) monopile foundation offshore in the UK, as well as WTG foundations, substations, and inner-array cables for major offshore wind developers in Europe, Taiwan, and the U.S.
Seaway7 also provides the following cable laying and related services:
Cable Laying Services
Submarine cable and subsea umbilical services (installation, repair, and maintenance)
Offshore Cables – Related Services
Seaway7 uses market-leading, custom-designed vessels to install inner-array grid cables (IAG cables) with precision in all weather conditions.
Seaway Aimery and Seaway Phoenix
Built in 2016, Seaway7’s CLVs—Seaway Aimery and Seaway Phoenix—are fitted with the most modern equipment to ensure schedule security for on-time project completion.
Seaway Aimery has two under-deck turntables with a capacity of 4,250 tons of cable arranged in split compartments to maximize the flexibility of the installation sequence (offshore).
Seaway Aimery is an advanced cable installation, repair, and maintenance vessel designed to meet the cable-laying demands of the offshore wind, renewables, and O&G industries.
Equipped with an on-board trenching ROV, Seaway Aimery can safely lay cables in water depths of up to 3.0 m and also has a cable hangar that provides climate-controlled shelter for the crew.
As an ISV (Installation Support Vessel), Seaway7’s Seaway Moxie was specifically designed to address the offshore wind farm demand for safe access to foundations and platforms in calm and rough seas.
Seaway Moxie is reported to be able to work in up to 3.5 m significant wave heights.
As the first of her kind to operate in Europe’s offshore wind farms, Seaway Moxie enabled “walk-to-work operations” for offshore personnel—giving them the opportunity to transfer to offshore structures without climbing up a ladder or using a transfer basket.
Seaway7 Cable Storage
Seaway7 provides flexible and stand-alone cable storage solutions on a temporary or long-term basis at client-convenient locations.
Seaway7’s logistic center and marine base in Eemshaven (The Netherlands) offers facilities for storing submarine cables and related accessories.
Location: Courbevoie, Hauts-de-Seine, France
Founded by Christopher Guérin, Nexans SA (Nexans) is a market leader in cable system design, manufacturing, and services and operates under three segments—Energy, Electrical Wires, and Telecom.
Nexans’ areas of expertise include but not limited to the following:
Nexans is known for its impressive track record of delivering the longest and biggest HV export cables and project management excellence.
With expert knowledge of deep-sea and complex interconnector projects, Nexans delivers complete turnkey solutions and offers support to public and private operators—from the early stages over the full lifetime of the project.
Nexans’ strong cable laying, burial, and protection capabilities enable the growth of advanced, reliable interconnections for power transmission over longer distances, offshore and onshore—facilitating energy exchange between communities, islands, or countries.
Nexans’ cable laying vessels include:
Operational since 1976, Nexans Skagerrak is one of the most advanced CLVs that has installed and repaired many subsea high-voltage cable systems globally.
In addition to its ability to load up to 7,000 tons of cable in one length, Skagerrak can carry heavy equipment for a job.
Skagerrak’s bespoke equipment (holding coiled cables, laying vessels, etc.), integrated navigation and survey systems, payload capacity, shallow draft, and other features make it a highly efficient CLV.
Nexans Aurora is Nexans’ flagship vessel to meet the ever-increasing demand for high voltage cabling systems with a 10,000-ton turntable capacity and the ability to operate in the most severe weather conditions.
Nexans Aurora is designed to cover the full range of shallow water and deep subsea activities up to 3,000 meters, including long-range and long-duration operations.
Nexans Aurora’s gigantic turntable can accommodate a large amount of cable in a single piece to ensure minimum disruption for cable installation works, such as installing large volumes of HVDC and HVAC cable systems—without causing incidents or too much tension.
Nexans’ Aurora project manager describes the vessel as “completely dedicated to the installation and repair of power subsea cables and umbilical systems.”
Nexans Third-generation CLV
A company press release announced Nexans’ expansion in the offshore wind and interconnection market with a third-generation cable laying vessel (to be delivered in 2026) with improved design, comfort, and capabilities.
For example, the new ship will be fitted with high-tech cable installation and burial equipment to enhance Nexans’ capabilities in subsea cable operations, such as laying up to four cables concurrently to achieve large-scale project goals.
Moreover, Nexans’ third CLV is stated to be equipped with three turntables for enhanced loading capacity (13,500 tonnes) and hosting a wide range of jetting and ploughing tools.
The new strategic asset is expected to support the Nexans Group’s long-term growth and enable it to meet the increasing demand for electrification, particularly in the American and European markets.
Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands
Van Oord Dredging and Marine Contractors B.V. (also known as “Van Oord”) is a Dutch family-owned company with 150+ years of experience as an international marine contractor specializing in dredging, O&G infrastructure, and offshore wind.
Van Oord’s state-of-the-art equipment and vessels include:
Apart from focusing on the Balance of Plant contracts (all auxiliary systems and supporting components other than the wind turbines) and T&I projects, Van Oord offers other services like inter-array cable installation and scour protection.
Van Oord’s offshore wind fleet includes:
Van Oord Nexus
Van Oord’s first cable laying vessel “Nexus” is equipped with a dynamic positioning system, a large cable carousel (with over 5,000-tonne capacity), and an offshore crane to lay heavy and long export cables.
Nexus was first deployed in March 2015 at the Gemini offshore wind project.
Van Oord Calypso
Van Oord’s second cable laying vessel “Calypso” is expected to be operational from the end of 2023. The new DP2 vessel will primarily be deployed to install inter-array export and grid cables for offshore wind projects, including HVDC cables.
Calypso is an energy-efficient, hybrid vessel with a carousel on deck and a below-deck cable carousel with a total cable-carrying capacity of 8,000 tonnes.
Additionally, Van Oord’s innovative cable trenchers can be operated from Calypso.
Van Oord’s two trenchers—Dig-It and Deep Dig-It—are used as “TROVs” (Tracked Remotely Operated Vehicles) for cable insertion and burial.
Calypso’s sustainable set-up comprises the following:
Furthermore, Van Oord executes cable installation and scour protection activities for offshore wind projects using specialized vessels like the HAM 602 that is deployed for both laying cables and installing subsea rock around wind turbine foundations.
Location: Zwijndrecht, Belgium
DEME (Dredging, Environmental and Marine Engineering NV) is an international group of specialized companies with expertise in the fields of dredging and marine infrastructure, environmental remediation, and offshore energy.
DEME’s comprehensive fleet includes:
Submarine Power Cable Installation Projects
DEME has an excellent track record in the submarine power cable installation field—from building an infield cable network at a wind farm to an interconnector between two countries.
DEME manages the complete construction process, including:
DEME’s projects include (but not limited to) the following:
DEME Living Stone
Stated as the “most advanced cable installation vessel in the world,” DEME’s Living Stone is designed to increase production rates and the vessel’s workability, minimize cable damage, and reduce costs for the offshore wind industry.
DEME’s DP3 cable installation and multipurpose vessel “Living Stone” comes with a 10,000-tonne cable capacity and a cutting-edge, dual-lane cable system to install one cable while fully preparing the second one on deck.
Here are some of the other innovative features of DEME’s Living Stone:
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In a broader context, structured cabling supports a building’s cabling infrastructure with several standardized subsystems. On the other hand, network cabling refers to the physical infrastructure connecting computers and other devices to a network.
Generally, underground cable laying uses the excavation method that involves digging a deep and wide trench, which is covered with a layer of sand and further with bricks and other materials to protect the cables against mechanical injury.
Installation of underground electric cables is a multi-step process, including conduit and manhole installation, as well as cable pulling and slicing.
Both onshore and offshore cable projects use diverse cable tray systems to support electrical cables, instrumentation, and tubing. In a related context, a cable tray is an open, trough-like structure used for cable and wiring inside a building or an outdoor installation.
Unlike a cable duct designed to protect cables from mechanical damage, a cable tray’s main task is to ensure easy, orderly, and safe routing of power and signal cables and wires.
When it comes to underwater or undersea cabling, a cable laying vessel becomes integral to interconnecting the world with a wide range of cable-laying services.
In the coming years, the offshore wind energy (OWE) industry is expected to grow rapidly as a key contributor to achieving climate action targets and meeting growing energy demand worldwide.
As offshore cable installation is essential for connecting wind turbines to each other and to offshore substations, cable laying contractors will continue to play a key role in making offshore wind more accessible and competitive across the world.
Moreover, cable installation contractors have the knowledge and experience in laying different cable types and providing timely, professional customer service for multiple cable applications.
For instance, subsea cables form a vital component of the global internet service infrastructure, and subsea cable installation requires specialized know-how compared to that of a general contractor.
A lot of care is taken in building CLVs with high operational efficiency and low fuel consumption and emissions while ensuring crew comfort and safety.
For example, Salt Ship Design (also known as “Salt”) is an independent ship design company with expertise in designing fiber optic and power cable laying vessels. Salt delivered “NKT Victoria” in 2017—a state-of-the-art CLV providing improved cable-laying precision, lower execution risk, and total project flexibility.
Damen Shipyards Group and Huisman Equipment have taken offshore vessel innovation further with “the world’s first motion compensated CLV”—a fully integrated solution specifically designed to optimize operability and improve control and accuracy of cable placement in demanding weather conditions.
Cable laying vessel companies provide a wide range of cable laying vessels for challenging cable-laying operations and ensure successful project completion for their clients’ specific needs.