UNODC Eastern Africa News and Stories

You are here: Home / News

Protecting submarine cables in the Indian Ocean 

Port Louis (Mauritius), 13 January 2021 - UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme and the Indian Ocean Commission co-hosted the first regional stakeholder workshop on the protection of submarine cables on12-13 January 2021. 

More than 50 representatives of Indian Ocean UN Member States and submarine cable operators in the region came together to have a first meeting on coordinated protection of this critical infrastructure that transmits upwards of 95 per cent of telecommunications data, on which all aspects of our modern lives rely. 

In his keynote speech, UNODC Regional Representative for Eastern Africa, Dr. Amado Philip de Andrés, highlighted that this initiative could make the Indian Ocean Commission region among the first to have an adequate and coordinated protection and resilience framework for its submarine cables. 

"The security of submarine cables is not only a political but also an economic and social question," stated the Secretary General of the Indian Ocean Commission, Prof. Velayoudom Marimoutou.

For example, the negligence of a ship in 2013 caused the only submarine cable connecting Somalia to the rest of the world to be cut.

This single act had a major impact as there was no internet connection for three weeks and an economic loss of approximately USD 9 million per day. 

The International Law Advisor of the International Committee on the Protection of Submarine Cables, Mr. Kent Bressie, highlighted the need for action by both the private sector and the government. “To ensure effective protection we need both the private sector to take measures and the governments to create regulatory regimes,” Mr. Bressie said.

With 10 submarine cables inter-connecting the Indian Ocean Islands and linking them to the world, the need for coordinated protection cannot be underestimated.  

The Indian Ocean Commission, together with UNODC, will continue to work with the region's Member States to draft a Submarine Cables Protection and Resilience Plan that reflects the regional submarine cables landscape and promotes international law and cable protection best practices.   

More information