Australian Federal Police investigates ASC subsea cable cut off Perth

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Australian Federal Police investigates ASC subsea cable cut off Perth
Image credit: ASC/Vocus

'Allegedly damaged by a container ship'.

The Australian Federal Police has opened an investigation into how a subsea fibre cable operated by Vocus was severed inside Perth’s cable protection zone earlier this month.

The Australia-Singapore Cable (ASC) was cut on August 1 "about 18km from Perth landing station.”

That places the cut well inside of the Perth protection zone, which stretches 112km off Perth’s City Beach.

Declared by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), protection zones restrict certain activities in areas where subsea fibre cables are laid.

Damaging a cable or undertaking restricted activities inside one of these zones is a criminal offence that carries fines up to $133,200 and 10-year jail terms, or both.

ASC operator Vocus has so far declined to publicise the potential cause of the break. 

“Root cause identification will happen alongside repair works and Vocus will provide a more accurate assessment and update on full service restoration,” it has said.

Subscription telecommunications publication CommsDay has previously reported the cause of the breakage as a ship dragging anchor across the cable zone, however this could not be independently confirmed by iTnews.

Anchoring in cable protection zones is permitted only under a limited number of circumstances.

While the ACMA has oversight of cable protection zones, a spokesperson told iTnews that the “enforcement of protection zone requirements is a matter for the Australian Federal Police (AFP)."

“Cable operators should report any issues to the AFP,” a spokesperson said.

An AFP spokesperson told iTnews that an investigation into the incident is now underway.

“The AFP has received a report that the Australia Singapore submarine cable was damaged off the coast of Western Australia on the weekend of July 31 [to] August 1,” a spokesperson said.

“The cable was allegedly damaged by a container ship passing through the cable protection zones.

“As this investigation remains ongoing, no further information will be provided at this time.”

Vocus said late Friday that repairs to the cable "have been completed ahead of schedule", with normal service resuming at 1.36pm AEST.

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