/ 24 June 2009

Pirates force Seacom to delay cable switch-on — again

Increased Somalian pirate activity during April and May has affected Seacom’s cable installation plans. Both in terms of intensity and geographical coverage, the piracy has necessitated a change in the company’s plans and as a result delayed the ready-for-service dates twice this year.

First, it was delayed from June 27 to July 8, but the date has yet again shifted to July 23 2009. The planned route required the ship to transit an area of increased pirate activity, where other ships had been attacked or seized.

The cable deployment in the troublesome waters has since been completed and splicing to connect the section of cable from Mumbai to Africa is expected shortly. Testing of the larger cable system will be finalised shortly thereafter. The cable section from South Africa (Mtunzini) to Kenya (Mombasa), including all south and east African landing stations, has already undergone successful testing.

Seacom CEO Brian Herlihy said piracy had affected the timeline of the project, which the company had only recently fully established. ‘While I am personally truly disappointed by the delay, it was imperative that strong measures be put in place to guarantee the successful completion of the cable system and the safety of the ship and its crews,” he said.

In the meantime, Seacom is working with its contractor, Tyco Telecommunications, to find ways to accelerate the outstanding works and bring forward the ready-for-service date ahead of July 23 2009.

“This setback should, however, be seen against the herculean efforts made by the team to see this project come to fruition over an incredibly tight schedule of only 18 months.

“We remain extremely excited and look forward to witnessing the huge difference that affordable, high quality and plentiful bandwidth will have throughout eastern and Southern Africa.”

Neotel is one telecommunication company that already has access to the station through the transtel communications network on the nearby railroads.

Seacom’s undersea cable project will be the first of its kind to connect to East Africa from the rest of the world through links to India, the United Kingdom and France.

Other African countries that will connect to the cable are Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania. The cable will also link to Madagascar, Ethopia and Egypt.

The project is 76,25% African-owned, with South Africa’s Shanduka Group (12,5%), Venfin Limited (25%), Convergence Partners (12,5%) and Kenya’s Industrial Promotion Services (26,25%) all on board. The remaining 23,75% is owned by Herakles Telecom, a New-York-based international development group.