How Are the World's Undersea Cable Systems Protected?

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For decades, undersea cable systems have been important to the planet's communications – supporting billions of dollars worth of trade. Today, with more internet-based economic activity than ever before, these communication lines are vital to the health of both developed and developing economies.

But what would happen if these cable systems were disrupted? In terms of daily international financial transactions alone, any substantial disruption to undersea cable systems could interfere with around US $10 trillion – according to Michael Sechrist in a 2012 paper published by the Harvard Kennedy School. Other industries are similarly reliant on undersea cable systems, as is the vast bulk of our phone call and internet traffic.

Could satellites take up the slack?

At present, just five per cent of the world's communications traffic is handled by satellites, according to Jonathan Reed Winkler, a historian of diplomatic and military history at Wright State University in Ohio, who was interviewed by Forbes recently.

This figure is dwarfed by the amount of data carried by undersea cables. Just one submarine cable can carry 10 terabits of data per second – comprising everything from phone calls to videos to emails.

The cloud under our oceans

Many of us now rely on ‘the cloud’ to store and access personal and work data, but the name is something of a misnomer; in reality the cloud exists under the world’s oceans, not above us.

What are the threats?

In recent months there have been a number of reports focussed on potential threats to cable systems, especially as regards malevolent submarine action.

But international cable systems are at greater risk from trawler fishing vessels, anchor damage and the impact of extreme weather, among other risks.

How can cable systems be protected?

Since undersea cable systems are so essential to the world's economies, keeping cables secure and fully operational is a high priority for governments everywhere. A number of organisations – alongside undersea cable engineering experts such as Global Marine – work tirelessly to ensure these communication channels remain open.

How does Global Marine maximise cable security?

There are a vast array of issues potentially affecting the security of undersea cable systems, all of which are carefully considered by the Global Marine team at the planning stage of any new cable route commission. Possible sources of risk to a cable – and the extent of those risks – are identified during desk top studies and route surveys, long before our route engineering teams begin work.

The Installation and project engineering teams go to great lengths to ensure all the parameters outlined in the early studies are met, the cable might be buried in busy waterways or as an alternative rock armour around the cable may be utilised.  Post installation Global Marine’s maintenance team provide 24 hour response call out’s via a number of the global maintenance agreement zones.

Discover more about Global Marine Systems’ services

Find out more about our comprehensive underwater engineering services. With unrivalled expertise, experience and resources in subsea cable installation, maintenance and burial requirements, Global Marine is a world leader in the realm of undersea cable systems. We deliver end-to-end solutions to a range of offshore industries including oil and gas, offshore renewables, telecoms, power and deep sea research. Learn More Now...


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