Transatlantic cable backed by US tech giants a hazard, say fishermen

Aquacomms says cable will be buried two metres below seabed

Fishermen say Aquacomms intends laying a cable free-floating and unanchored on a 25-30km stretch of seabed north of Clare Island and west of Achill. Credit: Travelpix

Fishermen say Aquacomms intends laying a cable free-floating and unanchored on a 25-30km stretch of seabed north of Clare Island and west of Achill. Credit: Travelpix

 

Fishermen say a Facebook- and Google-backed transatlantic communications cable destined to come ashore on the Republic’s coast is a serious hazard and threatens passenger ferries.

Irish communications specialist Aquacomms is seeking a foreshore licence from the Government to allow an undersea communications cable linking the United States and Europe to come ashore at Old Head in Clew Bay, Co Mayo.

The Clare Island Fishermen’s Group opposes the plan saying the cable would effectively create “a serious hazard at sea”.

In a document outlining members’ fears, the group says the company intends laying the cable free-floating and unanchored on a 25-30km stretch of seabed north of Clare Island and west of Achill and will hold responsible any vessel that snags it.

Aquacomms said yesterday that the cable would be buried two metres below the seabed – using a subsea plough – while its 3kg-to-4kg per metre weight would prevent it floating.

“A protocol has been agreed with local fisheries’ representatives (the Western Regional Inland Fisheries’ Forum) to address accidental snagging,” the company added.

Fishermen claim that if the plan was allowed to proceed, the cable would cause serious issues and danger for the passenger ferries now using Old Head.

However, Aquacomms said it had positive talks with the ferry operator, and no such issue was raised.

Similarly it would pose a danger to people using the beach and damage Old Head’s reputation as a tourist attraction, the fishermen say.

“Furthermore Old Head is the only location along Clew Bay where it is possible to construct a deep-sea port,” the Clare Island fishermen’s document notes.

“However, if the proposal to landfall this fibre-optic cable at Old Head goes ahead the option for this harbour development is removed.”

Responding to the group’s concerns about the cable’s impact on Old Head’s amenities, and that it would prevent the construction of a deepwater harbour there, Aquacomms said that as well as being buried beneath the seabed, the cable would not come within 50m of the existing pier.

Foreshore licence

Aquacomms subsidiary America Europe Connect 2 Ltd applied last week to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government for a foreshore licence, needed to bring the cable ashore.

Opponents and other interested parties can comment on the proposal and the department will consider these when considering the application.

Mayo County Council gave America Europe Connect 2 the go-ahead to build a single-storey cable landing station at Old Head, which is part of the project.

The line is part of the Havfrue high-speed telecoms cable that will connect New Jersey in the US with Denmark, with spurs running from it to both the Republic and Norway.

Tech giants Facebook and Google are partners in the project along with Aquacomms and Norwegian company Bulk, which builds data centres and telecommunications networks.

America Europe Connect 2’s application shows that Aquacomms hopes it can begin laying the cable and other work between March and September this year, although it states that this depends on the planning process, weather and other factors.