Repair ship setting sail for big Internet cable break

Orange Marine’s Léon Thévenin is scheduled to depart Cape Town Harbour at 17:00 on Tuesday, 14 May 2024, for the site of the faults on the Eastern Africa Submarine System (EASSy) and Seacom cables.

The faults occurred on Sunday, 12 May 2024, and the vessel is expected to arrive at the cable grounds at around 05:00 on Saturday, 18 May.

The Léon Thévenin can tackle repairs in water as shallow as 10 metres or as deep as 7km.

Onboard, it is equipped with various cable work tools — grapnels, buoys, ropes, and dead weights — and a remotely operated vehicle that can be used to detect, cut, recover, join, and test undersea fibre cables.

According to MarineTraffic, the vessel docked in Cape Town Harbour on 25 April after returning from Abidjan, where it was attending to a fault on the SAT-3 cable.

Its mobilisation on Tuesday, 14 May 2024, comes after faults were reported on the EASSy and Seacom cables off the East Coast of Africa, knocking out all subsea capacity between East Africa and South Africa.

EASSy spans 10,000km, connecting countries in Eastern Africa to the rest of the world. It is a vital telecommunications component that carries the region’s voice, data, video, and Internet traffic.

Seacom offers fibre-optic pairs from Mtunzini in South Africa to a point of presence (PoP) in Marseille. It is still suffering from a cable break in the Red Sea that can’t be repaired due to Houthi rebel activity in the region.

Netblock, a watchdog organisation monitoring cybersecurity and Internet governance, said network data showed disruptions to Internet connectivity in and around East African nations.

Cloudflare reported that the cable faults were impacting Internet connectivity to Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

It said it had observed traffic drops of between 30% and 75% in impacted countries.

Following these cable faults on Sunday, South African users complained about poor Netflix performance and issues connecting to other online services.

However, the East coast submarine cables may have only been part of the problem.

INX-ZA chair Edrich de Lange told MyBroadband that several terrestrial cable failures also occurred, reducing capacity between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

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Repair ship setting sail for big Internet cable break