The Tasmanian government has announced that it is seeking AU$122 million in compensatory damages from Basslink under a notice of dispute it lodged this week following a months-long telecommunications and energy subsea cable outage.
After last week refuting claims by the state government that it breached the Basslink Operations Agreement (BOA) contract it has as the operator of the submarine cable, Basslink has again responded by saying it “strongly denies the allegations” set out in the notice of dispute.
“Basslink will follow the dispute resolution steps set out in the BOA to resolve the dispute,” the company said.
“However, if the dispute cannot be resolved, it would be referred to arbitration in accordance with the steps of the BOA, and Basslink intends to vigorously defend the matters raised in the notice.”
Basslink had last week also said it would “vigorously defend any legal action”.
“As part of the commissioning of the Basslink Interconnector in 2006, the Basslink Interconnector was rigorously tested to ensure the design and construction requirements were satisfied,” the company said.
“Given that the Basslink Interconnector was completed and commissioned more than a decade ago, Basslink is extremely surprised at these very belated allegations by the state and strenuously denies that any warranties under the BOA were breached.”
According to Basslink, an independent inspector had signed off the design, construction, and commissioning requirements.
“The state, through Hydro Tasmania, was very closely involved in the design, construction, and commissioning process. This involvement included attending various meetings with both Basslink and the manufacturers,” the company argued.
“Basslink maintains the cable failure was a force majeure event.”
The Tasmanian government had last week threatened to take legal action against Basslink after reports from two global experts provided to Hydro Tasmania in December found the Basslink subsea cable outage of 2015-16 was caused by Basslink exceeding its design limit, which then degraded the cable.
Hydro Tasmania, a state government business enterprise that is responsible for a majority of the state’s energy generation, at the time said the findings “vindicate” its decision to have the outage investigated.
Basslink responded by saying the outage was not caused by anything other than a chance occurrence.
The Basslink Interconnector was down from December 2015, with Basslink finally completing its cable jointing repairs in June 2016 following months-long delays due to excess water damage and inclement weather.
The outage had lasted so long that the Tasmanian government got involved, with Minister for Information Technology and Innovation Michael Ferguson also reprimanding TPG for not buying additional capacity on Telstra’s cables during the outage.
Basslink has called the accusations from the Tasmanian government that it breached its contract as operator of the Basslink Interconnector ‘belated’, given the cable went live 10 years ago.
Tasmania’s government has threatened legal action against the owners of the Basslink cable that failed in 2015, contributing to an energy crisis in the state.
The contents of a report prepared into Basslink’s 2015-16 outage is purely theoretical, Basslink has said.
Basslink operated its subsea cable in a way that exceeded its temperature limitations, with the overheating and cooling of the cable resulting in the outage last year, according to independent experts.
After more than six months of repairing a fault of an unknown cause, the telecommunications and energy subsea cable is being returned to service.
Manmade and natural threats have damaged undersea fiber optic cables connecting ASEAN countries as well as Guam, Australia, and the United States, causing issues for some internet users.
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