Why Cable ship in Samoa significant

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi 07 October 2018, 12:00AM

The Cable Ship Reliance will be based in Apia, Samoa in order to better respond to service and repair calls from cable owners in the Asia South Pacific region.

C.S. Reliance officer, Kenneth Robert Halcisak, said that they are currently managing 23 different cable systems and will answer to a call within 24 hours. In the event that there are two systems broken at the same time, they have a first come, first serve policy.

“We have a queuing mechanism in all the contracts and its basically first come, first serve,” he said.

 “However, it depends on the severity of the fault, if it’s a shunt electrical fault we can still power to that shunt and keep the system up and working. It it’s a complete cut to the cable and the fibers get cut then that person would have highest priority and we would fix their cables first.”

Cable damage can be attributed to external aggression such as fishing vessels and their anchors according to Mr. Halcisak. Fishing vessels drop large nets that have anchors, which are then dragged across the ocean floor, that could result in old cables breaking if caught in the net. 

Compared to the Asia Pacific region, Mr. Halcisak said the South Pacific only averages one cable break a year, compared to two a month on average in Asia Pacific waters and attributed the low statistics to various factors. 

“I think that’s because maybe the sea bottoms are very benign and the cables drop off to deeper water quite quickly and the cables are installed very well in the Pacific area. We have two ships in the Asia Pacific region so we see two breaks a month.”

“All these cables are marked on the sea bottom like a regular road map with GPS, it’s all on chart so people shouldn’t be damaging them. So I think that’s why in this region, even close to shore, people are very aware of these cables and they know that there are high cost in damages to be fixed so the governments tend to police them well and enforce policies of no fishing around the cable areas with heavy penalties,” he added. 

The C.S. Reliance also offers Automated Information System services to their clients, where they can track vessels that damage cables, to assist them in their efforts to seek compensation from the owners of the vessel in question. However, due to the low number of damage and repair incidences in the South Pacific, Mr Halcisak said he does not see the need for that service. 

“Every vessel can broadcast a signal of where it’s going so we can track them and close to shore is where most of these cables get damaged. We’ll track 40 kilometers offshore and we can see a vessel going over a cable, and if you see them getting hooked and eventually breaks, and so we can use that as evidence in identifying the perpetrating ship, date and time.”

“In The South Pacific, we really only monitor off Australia and New Zealand, these islands there’s never been any problem so we don’t monitor AIS services, we feel like there’s no threat or history of faults in repairs, so its not even worth it for customers here to pay for that service in the South Pacific islands.”

“A lot of cable owners will go after those boats that damage their cables, especially if they are a big fishing line who incur 500,000 to a million dollars in damage to them, they will go after them for compensation. Some win and some lose,” he added.

Mr Halcisak said since the vessel’s deployment in March last year it has attended to one cable breaking incident 600 kilometers of the coast of Papua New Guinea.

“We think there was an earthquake which probably caused cable fault so luckily it wasn’t a fisherman or anything. Sometimes earthquakes or landslides can damage cables,” he said. 

The cable depot is scheduled to open next Tuesday with Mr Halcisak indicating that the long term goal is to have Samoans trained in fiber optic repairs and possibly assist on the vessel.  They are currently working with local support and staff to assist with building their tank building.

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi 07 October 2018, 12:00AM

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