Pair of subsea cables severed off the west coast of Africa


The West African Cable System (WACS) and South Atlantic 3 (SAT-3) submarine cables were reportedly damaged by a submarine landslide in the Congo Canyon

According to a report from MyBroadband, both the WACS and SAT-3 cables have experienced breaks off the coast of West Africa.

Reports suggest that the breaks took place on the cable sections situated between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon, likely due to a submarine mudslide around the Congo Canyon.

Congo Canyon is a steep submarine valley carved into the seabed around the mouth of the Congo River. The area is well known for cable disruption, with huge aquatic mudslides occurring when the Congo River floods heavily. This was the case in early 2020, when the Congo River saw its worst flooding for half a century, resulting in an underwater avalanche that heavily disrupted both WACS and SAT-3.

Now, it appears that similar activity has once again impacted these cables, with Telkom SA’s wholesale fixed-line division Openserve confirming that both cables have been severed.

The company also noted that service disruption from the event should be low due to the availability of alternative data transport routes.

“The impact on our network is limited to customers on the international private leased circuits (IPLC) services,” explained Openserve in a statement. “The Openserve network remains robust due to our investment in other international cable capacity, hence all Openserve IP Transit services (WebReach) traffic have been automatically re-routed, ensuring our customers stay seamlessly connected.”

The two cables in question are follow a similar route, travelling roughly 14,500km up the west coast of Africa and connecting South Africa to Portugal, with numerous international branches along the way.

SAT-3 is by far the older cable, coming into service in 2002, while WACS was activated in 2012.

The task of repairing the cables has already been allocated to the cable ship Leon Thevenin, but the process is likely to take some time; according to reports, the ship has only recently arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, and hence will travel south, around the Cape of Good Hope, and back up the west coast of Africa to reach its destination.

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