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AFP charge container ship master over Vocus subsea cable damage

AFP charge container ship master over Vocus subsea cable damage
Ry Crozier Aug 24 2021

The Australian Federal Police has laid charges against the 59-year-old master of container ship Maersk Surabaya for allegedly damaging Vocus’ Australia-Singapore Cable at the start of August.

As reported by iTnews, police opened an investigation into the incident, which saw the cable cut well inside of the Perth protection zone, a potential criminal offence.

The cut is said to have occurred approximately 10km offshore from Perth’s City Beach and took a fortnight to repair - an unusually short time due to the nearby presence of a cable repair ship.

The damage to the cable is alleged to have come in at about $1.5 million.

“An investigation by AFP officers in WA and Victoria has resulted in the arrest of the 59-year- Ukrainian national,” the police said in a statement.

“The man was the master of a cargo ship Maersk Surabaya, which police say had been anchored approximately 500m from the protection zone, and allegedly dragged its anchor through the area in high winds, snagging and damaging the 20m-deep cable.

“The 59-year-old man was charged last week (August 11) after AFP investigators searched the vessel when it docked in Melbourne and seized ship logs.”

The man appeared by video link in Melbourne Magistrates Court and was granted bail with strict conditions. He is currently in hotel quarantine.

The charges carry a potential maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment and a $40,000 fine.

AFP detective superintendent Graeme Marshall said damage to a subsea cable can have serious financial consequences for both the cable operator and for customers who experience reduced connectivity and data access.

“The protection zone is clearly marked on maritime charts and all vessel masters should ensure vessels operate in a manner which does not interfere with critical communications infrastructure,” Marshall said.

The ship is no longer in Australian waters, according to