Subsea Cable Damage Reported of Yemen Coast

Fiber optic cables
Updated Published

Only a few weeks following an alert regarding the potential threat from Houthi rebels to underwater cables in the Red Sea, it has been reported that a fiber-optic cable off Yemen's coast has been cut, with possible damage to three additional lines.

Previously, the Red Sea facilitated roughly an eighth of global maritime traffic. Its critical role in global internet connectivity is less recognized, with 16 slender fiber-optic cables beneath its waters managing around 17 percent of worldwide data traffic. This includes major connections linking Europe to India and East Asia. Some of these cables lie in relatively shallow waters, reaching depths as minimal as 300 feet, making them potentially reachable by divers.

The Houthi group has acknowledged the strategic significance of these underwater cables. Early this year, a Houthi-affiliated social media profile shared a diagram highlighting these cables, accompanied by a message emphasizing Yemen's strategic importance due to the concentration of telecom infrastructure. The legitimate government of Yemen has recently been alerted to the risk Houthis pose to these subsea assets, a concern it has reportedly shared with telecommunications companies previously.

Globes, an Israeli news outlet, reported this Monday that cables owned by four major telecommunications networks, including Asia-Africa-Europe 1 (AAE-1), TGN Atlantic, Europe India Gateway, and the Seacom system, have sustained damages in the past few months.

Seacom has verified that its cable linking Egypt and Kenya was cut on February 24. However, the company has indicated to Bloomberg that determining whether this act was intentional remains premature.

Seacom has expressed concerns that repair efforts might face delays due to "instability in the area." The company is devising a plan to restore service, facing hurdles such as locating a cable ship owner prepared to work near Houthi missile range and securing an insurer to cover war risks while the vessel operates off the coast of Yemen.