The Australian Federal Police has charged the Master of a container ship that allegedly damaged the Australia Singapore Cable (ASC).

The police claim that the ship Maersk Surabaya was behind the submarine cable break on 1 August, which caused about AU$1.5 million (US$1.1m) in damages.

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The captain has been arrested for allegedly engaging in negligent conduct as the Master of a maritime vessel, and is thought to be the first time someone has been charged under section 37 of schedule 3A of the Telecommunications Act 1997. He faces up to three years in prison and an AU$40,000 ($29m) fine.

It is believed that the Maersk Surabaya was anchored approximately 500m from the protection zone, and dragged its anchor through the area during high winds, breaking the cable in multiple places.

“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,” AFP Detective Superintendent Graeme Marshall said.

Vocus turned to SubCom to repair the cable, with the ship CS Reliance deployed after four days. Another four days later, it had spliced the south end of the break and laid new cable to the north. But bad weather forced the ship to anchor and wait out the storm, before finally fixing the cable on 13 August.

The 4,600km ASC connects Australia to Christmas Island, Jakarta, and Singapore. While the break caused some increased latency, the company was able to reroute traffic so that there were no major outages.

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