Nigeria reacts to effects of March undersea cable cuts

*Stops ships from anchoring indiscriminately

One of the major causes of the March 14 undersea cable cut which affected internet services in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, was indiscriminate anchorage of ships at anchor bays, has learnt.

As a result, the Nigerian government has taken measures to forestall recurrence, directing the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, to seal off anchor bays in Lagos so ships cannot anchor on designated restricted areas.

Since the unfortunate cut incident, Nigeria has been taking measures to avert a recurrence of the underwater cable cut, which placed internet services in limbo barely a month ago.

One of the shocking discoveries why internet cables cut even while under water is the way ships anchor on their bays. learnt that despite denials, part of what contributed to the severe effect MainOne cable suffered during the cut was indiscriminate ship anchorage.

Another shocking discovery, was that even presidential communication line via the ports were also affected during the incident.

And so, as a proactive measure, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA has commenced moves to cordon off the Lagos anchorage with a view to checkmating the indiscriminate anchoring of vessels at the Lagos anchorage.

Recall on March 14, Nigerians were thrown into a frenzy when the internet blanked out, Bank services disrupted, and the telecommunications sector was in a sorry situation due to damages on submarine cables.

The damage affected major undersea cables, including MainOne, West Africa Cable System WACS, SAT3 and the Africa Coast to Europe, ACE. People living in many African countries, including Nigeria, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and parts of South Africa had their telecommunications adversely disrupted and business organisations operating in these areas recorded huge losses as their internet services went bonkers.

Although, an unaffected cable company, West Indian Ocean Cable Company, WIOCC, came to the rescue, Nigeria still shops for a way to forestall such incidents in the future.

WIOCC immediately deployed it’s highly resilient network, with hyperscale capacity on every major system and swiftly deliver restoration solutions to hyperscalers, fixed and mobile carriers, internet service providers and other clients, enabling them to quickly re-establish key traffic routes into, within and out of Africa, thereby minimising performance degradation for their end-customers.

However, apparently latching on the discovery that keeping anchoring bays from indiscriminate anchorage will safeguard cables lying beneath the Nigerian waters, NPA has taken the task to ensure safety.

Confirming the development, Executive Director , Marine Operations, Mr Olalekan Badmus said that the agency was already meeting with relevant government departments to ensure that the indiscriminate anchoring of vessels are checkmated.

He explained that since the anchorage belongs to NPA, there must be some level of restriction as to where to anchor vessels, particularly since it has been discovered that indiscriminate parking affected the MainOne line.

He said: “The MAIN ONE line is actually impacted by indiscriminate anchoring but on the NPA chart, the MAIN ONE line is an anchorage prohibited area. We have a safety zone when any vessel comes to our waters, they call our radio signals.

“Our proposed installation Vessel Tracking System will also checkmate this indiscriminate anchoring of vessels at the anchorage.

“If you look at the chart, some of the anchorage area is prohibited, we need to enforce the no anchorage area by vessels. We are also contacting the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA on this issue

Also, a Council member and former General Marine and Operations, Capt Ebubeogu Iheanacho said that SAT 3 which is presidential cable line of communication has been move to another area because of the construction at Eko Atlantic City.

He said: “After the creation of Eko Atlantic, a lot of things have happened. For instance, SAT 3 cables is the Presidential Cable for communications which Manhole used to be at the NITEL station opposite the former Bar-Beach.

When the construction started, we shifted everybody to Eleko area, however those marine cables go through the waters to other countries and some of them are in anchorable depts and we need to identify these places and prohibit anchorage.

“Otherwise, these cables will be cut from time to time and it is not a healthy thing to have these cable cuts some of which include the hot line of Mr. President.

So it is good that these security underwater cables are protected from being damaged, between the Lagos and Lekki Deep-sea port, a lot of indiscriminate anchorage is going but we must tell them (Vessels) that there are places you cannot anchor because there are places that must be protected.”

The move has excited people in the ICT sector who believe that anything from any sector that will protect telecommunications infrastructure is a welcome development for ICT professionals.

A Lagos based internet services provider, Joseph Adaramola said:”We are still struggling to recover from the huge losses we incurred during that cable cut. If the news that the NPA is taking the task to protect our cables in Lagos waters from being damaged by ships is anything to go by, Nigeria has actually woken up to realities. This is how it is done in developed economies and that is why they achieved self sufficiency in all economic respects – because they were always proactive.
“The whole ICT sector will welcome the gesture from NPA” he added

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