Ask the Griots

What can cause a submarine cable to break, and how is it repaired ?

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Following a break in undersea cables last week, many African countries are experiencing difficulties accessing the Internet (Click here to find out more). One of our loyal readers asked us about the causes of this type of break and the methods of repair. We answer this question in this week’s « Ask Griots ».

Natural or accidental causes ⚠️

There are many causes of submarine cable failure. They can be divided into two categories: natural causes and accidental causes.

Natural causes include seismic activity (earthquakes, etc.), ocean currents and seabed erosion. Accidental causes include human activity, installation or maintenance errors, environmental or wildlife damage, and ship anchors.

Malicious acts such as sabotage or terrorist attacks can also cause submarine cables to break.

Repair in several stages 🛠️

Repairing a submarine cable is a complex operation requiring specialized expertise and specific equipment. Here are the general steps involved :

  • Locating the fault using sonar-equipped vessels
  • Immobilization of the cable to prevent further movement
  • Reassembly of the damaged cable using specialized vessels equipped with winches
  • Repair using techniques such as welding or encapsulation
  • Tests and checks to ensure that the cable is working properly
  • Re-installation of the cable in its original position under the sea
  • Continuous monitoring to detect any further anomalies

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask us in comments. Your favorite griots will answer them 😁

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