ACMA declares protection zones around submarine cables

Zones set new international benchmark

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) today declared protection zones around two submarine telecommunications cables of national significance off the NSW coast.

To take effect on October 1, 2007, these are the first protection zones to be declared by the ACMA and are the result of extensive consultation in the past 12 months with relevant stakeholders.

Activities that could damage the cables are restricted or prohibited within protection zones, and significant criminal penalties apply for breaches of the legislation.

The ACMA has established a new international benchmark by creating protection zones that safeguard submarine cables and place appropriate restrictions on other activities occurring in their vicinity.

Authority chairman, Chris Chapman, said the value of these submarine cables to the Australian economy is enormous.

Chapman said not everyone appreciates the fact that submarine cables carry up to 99 percent of Australia's international voice and data traffic.

"In the past breakage or damage has had serious consequences for Australian business conducting international transactions," he said.

"The declaration of protection zones minimises the risk of such damage in the future."

Following consultation ACMA sought to acknowledge the contributions of the members of the NSW Protection Zones Advisory Committee who have provided ongoing input into the work on protection zones.

Before formally declaring a protection zone, ACMA is required to develop a proposal for the protection zone, consult about the proposal and establish an advisory committee composed of key stakeholders and consisting of no more than 12 members.

Chapman said the two protection zones are: the Northern Sydney Protection Zone extending from Narrabeen beach to 40 nautical miles offshore, covering northern branches of the Australia Japan Cable and Southern Cross Cable, and: the Southern Sydney Protection Zone extending from Tamarama and Clovelly beaches and extending 30 nautical miles offshore, covering the southern branches of the Australia Japan Cable and Southern Cross Cable.

Both the Australia Japan Cable and the Southern Cross Cable are regarded as nationally significant high capacity cables linking Australia to global communications systems and they are vital to the national interest.

The northern protection zone extends from the low-water mark at Narrabeen beach to an outermost limit of 2000 metres water depth (40 nautical miles offshore).

The width of the northern protection zone extends one nautical mile either side of each cable and the area in between the two.

According to the ACMA, the southern protection zone extends from the low-water mark at Tamarama Beach and Clovelly Beach to an outermost point of 2000 metres water depth (30 nautical miles offshore).

The width of the southern protection zone extends one nautical mile either side of each cable and the area in between the two.

Carriers may now apply to ACMA for a permit to install a cable in the protection zones.

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