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Community / No evidence that a fishing vessel caused telecom cable damage – SFA says

Repair work on the damaged Shefa-2 cable was carried out at the end of October off Shetland by the cable repair ship Cable Vigilance. Photo: Ronnie Robertson.

SHETLAND Fishermen’s Association (SFA) has strongly refuted as “pure speculation” any suggestion that the recent damage to the Shefa-2 telecommunication cable was caused by a fishing vessel.

Shetland suffered a major blackout last Thursday when the Faroese owned subsea cable, which already was damaged halfway between Faroe and Shetland, got another hit just east of the Shetland mainland – cutting off most mobile and internet based services.

While cable owner Faroese Telecom has always said the damage was likely to have been caused by a fishing vessel, a large section of the national media preferred the notion that it could have easily been an example of low level terrorism by Russia.

As repairs are likely to last into the weekend due to poor weather conditions, no-one has so far published any evidence that would support one option or the other.

It is understood that looking at AIS marine tracking was one factor behind the fishing boat assumption.

SFA executive officer Sheila Keith.

SFA executive officer Sheila Keith said all marine users should avoid cables as they know, or should know, where they are.

“At this time, it is purely speculation that it was a trawler that caused the damage to the telecoms cable. We certainly have not evidence to show that it was a Shetland vessel,” she said.

She added that it was the cable owners’ responsibility to ensure the integrity of the subsea infrastructure including its armour.

“Developers who get permissions to place cables, whether on known fishing grounds or not, should have to bury it or rock dump on top of the cable where burial is impossible,” she said.

“Post development an ROV survey of the cable should be carried out regularly surveys to ensure the cable remains buried and is where it should be as per the charts they are plotted on.

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“If developers place a value on the infrastructure they place on the seabed they should be willing to spend money to protect it.”

She added: “This again highlights the concerns that the fishing industry have regarding the proliferation of cabling with the growth of wind farms developments around Shetland.

“We cannot afford for a spiders’ web of numerous cables, with multiple landing points on Shetland’s mainland to occur.

“We are calling for a limited number of cable corridors to reduce the impact on our valuable traditional fishing grounds. All cables should be buried with over trawl trials post development.”

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