Submarine cables

Submarine cable on a laying vessel Source: TenneT TSO GmbH

Submarine cables are heavy current cables or telecommunication cables that are laid in the area of the German continental shelf of the North Sea and Baltic Sea. There are submarine cables that only cross the German continental shelf or those that also land on the German coast.

Telecommunications cables

Despite the modern technology of being able to transmit data quickly via satellites, modern fibre optic cables for telecommunication purposes are increasingly being laid on the seabed. These cables enable an increased transmission performance with less susceptibility to interference, so that even connection to overseas are economically advantageous.

Power cables

Power cables are used to transport electricity between two countries. Because of this function, they are also called interconnectors. Since these underwater cables usually bridge very long distances, they are laid as high-voltage direct current transmission cables. The three-phase current is converted into direct current in order to be converted back into three-phase current after transport.

Approval regime

The laying of submarine cables requires prior official approval. The project-executing entity must submit a corresponding application. The application must be accompanied by documents indicating the type and scope of the planned project and, in particular, any possible impairment of legal interests (life, health, property, public interests). Further details are regulated by the legal basis - the Federal Mining Act (BBergG).

The special feature of the licensing procedure under mining law is that it is divided into two sub-areas. On the one hand, a permit is required for mining purposes (§ 133 para. 4 in conjunction with § 133 para. 1 no. 1 BBergG). This is issued by the respective competent state authority. In the North Sea area this is the State Office for Mining, Energy and Geology in Clausthal-Zellerfeld, and in the Baltic Sea area this is the Mining Authority in Stralsund. The mining authorities examine whether the project is in conflict with mining law interests.

On the other hand, approval from the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) is required. The BSH examines whether the project is compatible with the proper use of the waters above the continental shelf and the airspace above these waters (§ 133 para. 4 in conjunction with § 133 para. 1 no. 2 BBergG). Further details of the approval requirements and grounds for refusal are given in § 133 par. 2 sent. 1 in conjunction with § 132 par. 2 BBergG. § 132 par. 2 no. 3 BBergG. In particular, the licence may only be refused if public interests, such as the use of shipping lanes, flora and fauna, are impaired or if pollution of the sea is to be expected. In practice, issues of cable routing in conformity with spatial planning, proper laying techniques and depth as well as species and nature conservation are of particular relevance.

Enforcement procedures

Once approval has been granted, the project is subject to supervision by the BSH. If necessary, the BSH may issue orders to ensure the proper implementation of the project.