Sunshine Coast submarine cable delayed by months due to regulatory issues

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You have repeatedly reported about the JGA-S submarine cable to directly connect Australia via Guam to Japan and the Sunshine Coast Council's efforts to land the same in the region for which $35 million of taxpayers' money have been spent (https://www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au/submarinecable) in the expectation that up to 864 new jobs will be created in Queensland stimulating AU$927 million in new investment.

As was revealed yesterday the submarine cable in question, the Japan-Guam-Australia South Cable (JGA-S) developed by RTI (http://www.rticable.com/), is facing serious regulatory issues leading to an estimated delay of at least two months and potentially costing the cable developer two-digit millions.

A call for public comment by the US Fish & Wildlife Service issued on June 12th (https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Mariana_Trench_Marine_National_Monument/News/EA_Public_Comment_JGA.html) revealed that the JGA-S cable is set to cross the Marianas Trench, which is a Marine National Monument and therefore requires special approval which RTI as the cable developer has obviously missed to request earlier. The public consultation was only launched on June 12th and will run until July 12th after which the US Fish & Wildlife Service will have to assess the application before it can grant authorization meaning the cable can't be laid for another month.

However the JGA-S cable has already been loaded onto the cable laying ship, Alcatel Submarine Network's "Ile-de-Brehat" in April (http://www.rticable.com/others/JGA-S%20Ready%20for%20Subsea%20Installation%208%20Apr%202019.pdf) and the ship departed Calais, France on April 17th. Given the six-digit daily rate of cable laying ships such are never deployed before all regulatory approvals have been obtained, so the fact that RTI are now caught in a 1-month public consultation which started only two days ago and two months after the ships departure from the cable plant is a clear mishap that will cost millions.

Before the news of this regulatory issue broke, a submarine cable insider on Twitter wondered already on June 4th why the cable layer has been sitting idle in Batam, Indonesia for five days (https://twitter.com/philBE2/status/1135849384703344640) where it is still moored in this very moment (https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:171700/mmsi:226335000/vessel:ILE%20DE%20BREHAT).

The consequences are not only that the JGA-S cable and hence Australia's direct cable to Guam and Japan including its landings in Sydney and on the Sunshine Coast and hence its economic stimulus will be delayed, but since the vessel has also loaded the Coral Sea Cable System (known as CS²) set to connect Sydney to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (https://www.coralseacablesystem.com.au/articles/cables-on-their-way) this issue will also lead to the delay of these cables.

Lastly the delay also means that Australia remains exposed for longer to the relatively high risk of losing its international connectivity due to the fact that all international cables either land in Sydney which according to the attached map compiled by myself has a high tsunami risk while all western cables from Perth cross the Sunda Strait which suffers from numerous hazards to submarine cables including seismic/volcanic activity like the Anak Krakatau volcano which errupted in December. For details on this last issue see my LinkedIn post at https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6506841719974170624 which the reputable Australian telecoms entrepreneur and submarine cable developer Bevan Slattery.

Christian Frhr. von der Ropp
Senior Consultant, Interconnexion & Subsea | InterGlobix LLC

 
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