Crossing Agreements

For example, the NordLink cable between Norway and Germany, currently under construction, will have about twenty submarine passages. The North Sea Link (NSL) electric cable project, also under construction, between Norway and Great Britain, will have about thirty underwater crossings. An important element of border agreements will be the physical delimitation of the area in which the provisions will apply once completed. This area is normally defined by a particular radius around the crossing point. Outside this area, any obligation of the parties must be based on other legal bases of the crossing contract. This chapter deals with agreements between owners/operators of pipelines, electrical cables and telecommunications cables (so-called connectors) on the seabed. It reviews the legal basis of these agreements and their main provisions. The way in which the liability and indemnification clauses are designed will be respected throughout the implementation of the project (prefabricated, construction and post-manufacture). Finally, the need to supplement the provisions of the Convention in specific border crossing agreements is highlighted so that the owners of means of underwater transport can organise themselves in the most balanced and predictable way. Once the crossing is complete, a new risk scenario appears in the crossing area. For the interested party, access to the connector concerned becomes more difficult in case of repair or maintenance, especially directly under the Crossing Connector. For the Crossing Party, the existence of the Affected Connectors will hinder repair and maintenance work to some extent. Cross-breeding agreements are generally considered to be practical agreements with limited commercial interest.

In companies that have a large portfolio of sub-submarine connectors, crossover agreements are usually handled by a small group of highly experienced specialists, but who have a strong preference for their established practices and model agreements/clauses. In the case of projects for a new connector, it will be necessary to resolve at an early stage questions such as the type of crossings to be made, with appropriate details about the existing connectors and their owners. This will be partly an office exercise based on available information, supplemented by information provided by known or suspected connector owners. In addition, data from the first seabed studies will confirm the existence of a crossing situation and other crossings will be highlighted. It may be a bit surprising, but not all existing connectors are properly documented, and some of them may not even be known to their owners anymore. The specificities of the projects are important starting points. The physical aspects of the crossings are fascinating, especially since the work is done at the bottom of the sea, perhaps at a depth of hundreds of meters. The dark environment and the high water pressure require the use of very special equipment, most of which is used remotely by ships on the surface. While telecommunications cables usually only rest on the bottom of the ocean, electrical cables are usually buried (under the seabed).

Both approaches are followed for oil and gas pipelines. Therefore, the design of crossovers varies among participants, their vulnerability, and other factors….

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