Telecoms official: Fishing trawlers wrecking China’s internet cables

Published on
March 18, 2019

A proliferation of fishing vessels operating in Chinese waters is interfering with the country’s international telecommunications infrastructure, according to a representative of China’s largest telecoms company. 

Trawlers have ruptured or disrupted undersea cables in the East China Sea and the South China Sea Chen Yingyu, a senior official at China Telecom, said at the annual National People’s Congress, where executives from state-owned enterprises frequently summarize their industry’s performance and challenges. 

Many of the fishing vessels that have damaged cables are using Automatic Identification Systems equipment on board, but those systems aren’t preventing accidents from happening, Chen said. Chinese fishing firms are buying AIS gear from independent technology companies in Shenzhen, China’s tech capital, but in many cases, those firms haven’t updated their maps, Chen noted.

“[The AIS] are used with inaccurate or incomplete maps and these often do not show the true current location of underwater cables,” Chen said.

Such incidents aren’t unique to China. A cable company last year filed suit against an Irish fishing company after one of its trawlers disrupted a seabed fiber-optic cable. However, the fact that 40 such incidents were recorded in 2018 reveals the rapid acceleration of this issue as a problem in Chinese waters. 

Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

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