Container ship master charged after undersea cable damage

The Ukrainian captain of containership Maersk Surabaya (IMO 9330068) has been arrested and charged in Australia because of damage to a section of a subsea telecommunications cable. The offence carries a potential maximum penalty of three-year imprisonment and an A$40,000 fine.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said that it had charged the 59-year-old Master of container vessel, which was alleged to have allegedly damaged the Australia Singapore Cable off the West Australian coast. It was believed to be the first prosecution by the AFP for the alleged offence.

The cable became disabled early on August 1st. The section affected was in the Perth Submarine Cable Protection Zone, about 10km off City Beach,

Allegations that it was a passing vessel that had damaged the cable and caused about A$1.5m in damage were reported to the AFP on August 3rd.

Police said that the 8,845 teu Maersk Surabaya had been anchored about half a kilometre from the protection zone. It was alleged to have dragged its anchor through the area in high winds, snagging and then damaging the cable, which sits 20 metres underwater.

The captain was charged on August 11th after AFP investigators searched the vessel and seized ship logs when it docked in Melbourne. 

The man was granted bail with strict conditions and is currently in Covid hotel quarantine.

AFP Detective Superintendent Graeme Marshall said that the protection zone was “clearly marked on maritime charts and all vessel Masters should ensure vessels operate in a manner which does not interfere with critical communications infrastructure‚ÄĚ.

2006-built, Liberia-flagged, 94,322 gt Maersk Surabaya is owned by NartayMarine Inc care of manager Zodiac maritime Ltd of London, UK. It is entered with Steamship Mutual (Americas Syndicate) on behalf of Nartay Marine Inc.