Underwater Data Cables in Red Sea Damaged After Ship Attacked By Houthis Sank

Three cables underneath the Red Sea that provide telecommunications and global internet have been cut as the waterway continues to be a prime target of Houthis, officials informed on Monday. In the meantime, a Houthi missile strike set a vessel on fire in the waters of the Gulf of Aden but luckily resulted in zero injuries.

Image for representation purposes only.

What cut the lines continues to be unclear. Concerns have arisen regarding the cables being a target in the unlawful Houthi campaign that the rebels put across as an effort to pressure Israel to end the war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Houthis have, however, denied attacking these lines.

While global shipping has been disrupted massively via the Red Sea, a critical route for energy and cargo shipments from the Middle East and Asia to Europe, the sabotaging of telecommunication lines might further escalate the months-long crisis.

The cut lines comprise Asia-Africa-Europe 1, Seacom and TGN-Gulf, the Europe India Gateway, per HGC Global Communications. It described these cuts as impacting 25% of the traffic that flows via the Red Sea. It also described the Red Sea route as crucial for any data moving to Europe from Asia and added that it had started rerouting traffic.

HGC Global Communications has described the Seacom-TGN-Gulf line as two distinct cables when it is one at the cut area, per Tim Stronge, a subsea cable specialist with TeleGeography, a telecommunications market research firm based in Washington.

In early February, the Yemeni internationally recognized government in exile said that the Houthis intended to target the cables. The cables appeared to be disconnected on February 24, with NetBlocks pointing out that internet access in Djibouti was being disrupted two days later. Seacom serves Djibouti.

On their part, the Houthis denied targeting cables. The rebels have also placed the blame on the UK and the US military operations but have not chosen to provide evidence to support their allegations and have made some false claims in the past as well.

Despite over a month and a half of US-headed airstrikes, Houthis have continued to be capable of launching brutal attacks. These include the terrifying attack in the last month on a cargo vessel that was loaded with fertilizers, the Rubymar that eventually sank on Saturday after it drifted for many days, as well as the downing of a US drone that was worth millions of dollars.

The Houthis insisted that their attacks are going to continue until Israel puts an end to its Gaza Strip combat operations that have enraged the broader Arab world and witnessed the Houthis getting international recognition.

In the meantime, on Monday, Britain’s military’s UK Maritime Trade Operations Center warned of a potential attack in the Gulf of Aden. The private security major Ambrey described that the vessel was targeted as an Israel-affiliated, Liberia-flagged container vessel that sustained damages and sent out a distress call.

Per data, this container vessel encountered two explosions. Of these, the first happened at a distance that was off its port quarter. The second attack impaired the accommodation block of the vessel as well as a container leading, Ambrey explained. The explosion also led to a fire aboard the vessel, and the crew members’ firefighting efforts were underway.

The UKMTO and Ambrey have confirmed that no crew members on the ship were wounded in the fire that was extinguished many hours later.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, a spokesperson of the Houthi military, claimed the strike in a pre-recorded statement. He identified the vessel as the MSC Sky II, sailing for the Swiss corporation Mediterranean Shipping Co. However, he attempted to link it to Israel. The ship’s specifications and last known location matched information concerning the incident.

The terrorists known as the Houthis will strive to thwart Israeli navigation or those going to the ports of occupied Palestine till the aggression ceases and the siege imposed on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is lifted, Saree said in a statement.

The US military’s Central Command accepted the attack on MSC Sky II, stating that the vessel did not ask for help and continued. The US military carried out separate airstrikes against two of the anti-ship cruise missiles in Yemen.

MSC did not respond to inquiries regarding the attack.

It is unknown how the Houthis may attack subsea cables directly. The rebels are not believed to have the diving/salvage capabilities required to target the lines that extend hundreds of meters beneath the waterway’s surface.
Anchors, notably those dropped from ships crippled in attacks, can cut subsea cables. A drifting vessel bearing an anchor slapping the waves may be the culprit.

The team thinks that it is possible that it could have been impacted as a result of anchor dragging, given the sheer amount of marine traffic this zone has to deal with and the low seabed in several parts of the Red Sea, mentioned Seacom. However, this can be confirmed only when the repair vessel is on site.14 cables are running via the Red Sea now, with six more planned, said subsea cable specialist Stronge.

He added that more than 90% of communications between Asia and Europe is through submarine cables in the Red Sea. Fortunately, the telecom operators have maintained a high degree of redundancy in the system — several cables traverse the waters of the Red Sea.

The Houthis warned later on that any cable-laying vessel that steps into the Yemeni waters would require a permit from the rebels owing to concerns for its security and safety.

Reference: AP News

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Marine Insight News Network is a premier source for up-to-date, comprehensive, and insightful coverage of the maritime industry. Dedicated to offering the latest news, trends, and analyses in shipping, marine technology, regulations, and global maritime affairs, Marine Insight News Network prides itself on delivering accurate, engaging, and relevant information.

About Author

Marine Insight News Network is a premier source for up-to-date, comprehensive, and insightful coverage of the maritime industry. Dedicated to offering the latest news, trends, and analyses in shipping, marine technology, regulations, and global maritime affairs, Marine Insight News Network prides itself on delivering accurate, engaging, and relevant information.

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