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Containership Captain Charged Over Cable Strike in Australia

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

August 24, 2021

© Graham Flett / MarineTraffic.com

© Graham Flett / MarineTraffic.com

The master of a containership has been charged in Australia after his vessel allegedly dragged anchor through a protected zone and damaged a subsea communications cable off the West Australian coast. The Ukrainian national is facing up to three years imprisonment.

A section of the Australia Singapore Cable in the Perth Submarine Cable Protection Zone, approximately 10 kilometers offshore from City Beach, was disabled early on August 1, 2021, and allegations that a passing vessel had damaged the cable were reported to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) on August 3.

According to the AFP, the Maersk Surabaya had been anchored approximately 500 meters from the protection zone, and the Liberian-flagged box ship allegedly dragged its anchor through the area in high winds, snagging the 20-meter-deep cable and causing approximately $1.5 million damage.

The ship's master was arrested following an investigation by AFP officers in Western Australia and Victoria, and the 59-year-old man was charged on August 11 after AFP investigators searched the vessel and seized its logs when it docked in Melbourne.  

The man appeared by video-link in Melbourne Magistrates Court on August 11 for "engaging in negligent conduct as the master of a maritime vessel, which resulted in damage to the Australian Singapore Cable, contrary to section 37 of schedule 3A of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth)", the AFP said. If convicted, the mariner is facing a potential maximum penalty of up to three years in prison and a $40,000 fine, the agency added.

The captain was granted bail with strict conditions and is currently in COVID-19 hotel quarantine, the AFP said.

"The protection zone is clearly marked on maritime charts and all vessel masters should ensure vessels operate in a manner which does not interfere with critical communications infrastructure," said AFP detective superintendent Graeme Marshall, noting damage to a subsea cable can have serious financial consequences for both the cable operator and for customers who experience reduced connectivity and data access.

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