Subsea cables connect the world. Nearly all countries with a coastline are connected to an offshore power cable, which transmits data from continent to continent. These cables are either buried in the seabed or lie on the ocean floor, depending on their location.
Since these power cables are used in extreme environments, they’re made to withstand harsh conditions and temperatures, and strong currents. However, undersea conditions are severe enough to cause all sorts of damage to offshore cables. These conditions result in cable faults that disrupt data transmission.
Cable Source, one of the leading providers of marine power cables in Singapore, is an expert in subsea cable issues. Below are the common causes of offshore cable damage.
1. Fishing and Maritime Activities
Fishing activity is the number one cause of cable faults, according to the International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC) publication ‘Submarine Cables and The Oceans: Connecting the World’. Bottom trawling, in particular, is a frequent source of cable disturbance.
Bottom trawling is prevalent on many continental shelves where hundreds of undersea cables are present. Although most fishing vessels never interact with the cables, the few times that they do disturb the cables result in significant consequences. Cable faults disrupt communications requiring expensive repairs.
Dredging, or the excavation of debris and sediment from the bottom of bodies of water, is another culprit of undersea cable damage.
Most countries treat international power cables in maritime zones as critical infrastructure, to minimise contact between cables and maritime vessels. International and domestic laws protect certain seabed zones by prohibiting bottom trawling and other destructive fishing techniques in these areas.
2. Vessel Anchors
According to the same ICPC publication, vessel anchors are the second-most common cause of cable faults. A 4-tonne anchor can penetrate the seabed up to 5 meters. This anchor might hook and drag a cable, which will likely result in a complete break. Smaller vessels with lighter anchors can also damage subsea cables by accidentally pulling them.
Submarine cable engineers avoid charted anchorage areas when planning cable routes, to prevent damage. However, some vessels still anchor in uncharted regions, increasing the chances of cable faults.
3. Submarine Earthquakes and Landslides
Undersea natural hazards also expose offshore power cables to damage, especially the ones lying on the seabed. Earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis and other underwater natural phenomena displace large volumes of sediment, exposing cables to damaging turbidity currents.
Typhoons strengthen waves and currents, increasing the potential to damage power cables. Storm-generated movements of sand, gravel and seabed sediment can erode surface-laid cables.
Engineers can do little to prevent damage caused by natural hazards since these phenomena are inevitable.
4. Intentional Cable Sabotage
This is rare, but intentional undersea cable damage is probable. An example of this is an incident in 2013, when three men allegedly tried to cut an offshore cable off the coast of Alexandria. The accused men claimed to have severed the cable by mistake.
These four factors prove the vulnerability of subsea communications cables. This susceptibility to damage highlights the need for durable, highly armoured offshore power cables.
Quality Offshore Power Cables Guaranteed
Cable Source provides top-of-the-line, reliable industrial cables in Singapore. Our power cables are designed to perform in extreme temperatures and conditions, ideal for marine applications. They’re also perfect for a variety of electronic and electromechanical equipment, emergency and critical systems, electric distribution and lighting systems.
Contact us today to learn more about our offshore power cables.