The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which has made submarine cable protection a centerpiece of its telecom strategy, has declared a protection zone over a submarine telecommunications cable of national significance off Perth, Western Australia. The protection zone will take effect on 1 February 2008.
The SEA-ME-WE-3 cable is nationally significant as it is a high capacity cable linking Australia to global communications systems and is vital to the national interest.
Activities that could damage the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable are restricted or prohibited within the protection zone, and significant criminal penalties apply for breaches of the legislation.
"The value of submarine cables to the Australian economy is enormous," said Lyn Maddock, Acting ACMA Chair. ‘It is little appreciated that submarine cables carry about 99 per cent of Australia's international voice and data traffic and in the past, breakage or damage has had serious consequences for Australian businesses conducting international transactions. The declaration of protection zones minimizes the risk of such damage in the future.'
The Perth Protection Zone starts at the low water mark at City Beach and extends to 2,000 meters water depth (51 nautical miles from shore) and up to one nautical mile either side of the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable. Marmion Marine Park is not part of the zone.
"In making the decision about the protection zone, ACMA sought to maintain appropriate protection for the cable while minimizing the impact on marine users," said Ms. Maddock. "ACMA particularly wants to acknowledge the contribution of the members of the Western Australia Protection Zone Advisory Committee who have provided valuable, and ongoing, input into the work on the protection zone."
This is the third protection zone to be declared in Australia and is the culmination of extensive consultation over the past 12 months with affected and potentially affected parties.
If carriers wish to install new cables in the Perth Protection Zone they must first obtain a permit from ACMA. They must also continue to comply with certain West Australian state laws, including laws about the protection of places or items of significance to the cultural heritage of Aboriginal persons or Torres Strait Islanders.
The legislation allows for variation to the Perth Protection Zone if new information becomes available in relation to it.
In the lead up to 1 February 2008 when the zone will take effect, ACMA will inform affected parties about the zone so they are aware of and can comply with the prohibitions or restrictions within the zones.