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Damaged Subsea Cable in Red Sea Highlights Telecom Vulnerability *Centurion Insurance AFS*

Feb 27, 2024 (0) comment , , , , , , , , , ,


A subsea cable off the coast of Yemen that connects Europe to India has been damaged, and the telecommunications carrier that owns it must now figure out how to make underwater repairs in a war zone.

Seacom Ltd., the South African company that controls the cable, detected a fault on Saturday, Chief Digital Officer Prenesh Padayachee said in an interview with Bloomberg on Monday. He estimated the problem is in waters about 150 meters (492 feet) to 170 meters deep in an area where Iran-backed Houthi fighters have been targeting ships with drones and missiles.

The incident highlights how vulnerable critical subsea infrastructure can be, particularly in shallow waters with lots of cables. There are approximately 16 cable systems in the Red Sea, connecting Europe to Asia via Egypt.

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While Seacom was able to quickly re-route internet traffic onto alternative cables, it now has to figure out the logistics of repairing a cable in a war zone, according to Padayachee. The company is working with a cable repair company owned by Emirates Telecommunications Group Co. PJSC on a plan, including how to insure the repair ship and whether they’ll need military escorts or armed security.

“A pending cease-fire in the region may provide a good window for the repair,” Padayachee said.

Houthi militants have made threats to sabotage critical undersea cables on social media, but there’s no evidence to suggest they have been successful. The vast majority of cable damage is caused by fishing equipment such as trawler nets or anchors dragging on the sea floor, according to data from the International Cable Protection Committee.

“It’s too early to tell if it’s sabotage,” Padayachee said. “Only once we lift the cable will we be able to see if someone has cut it.”

Photo credit: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Copyright 2024 Bloomberg.

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