By ICPC

The Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP) provides an informal mechanism for scholars, officials and others in their private capacities to discuss political and security issues and challenges facing the region. It also provides policy recommendations to various inter-governmental bodies, convenes regional and international meetings and establishes linkages with institutions and organisations in other parts of the world to exchange information, insights and experiences in the area of regional political-security cooperation.

Almost 100% of all transoceanic voice, data, and video communications (including the Internet) are now routed via submarine cables instead of satellite. CSCAP Memorandum No. 24 entitled Safety and Security of Vital Undersea Communications Infrastructure (May 2014) is the first document agreed by CSCAP participants from Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, China, the EU, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the USA that addresses security and contemporary impediments by coastal States to the rapid repair of international submarine cables.

The Memorandum is a direct result of the close collaboration of the ICPC with the Centre of International Law of the National University of Singapore.  This collaboration resulted in a workshop where CSCAP participants were provided expert information on submarine cable infrastructure.

Of particular note is the Memorandum’s finding that there “are impediments by coastal States that result in delays to repairs; these may occur as a result of permit delays, requirements for [cable] vessels to enter port before carrying out repairs, custom duties, fees, and taxes, and cabotage requirements.  These delays are sometimes in excess of three months, increasing the cost of repairs by hundreds of thousands of dollars and creating backlogs of repairs.” It is also important to note that such delays may seriously impair a nation's connectivity with the rest of the world.

Three of the ICPC’s existing Recommendations are embraced in the following extract from the Memorandum’s Specific Recommendations for Action:

Actions by States

  1. All States should join the International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC).
  2. Each State should designate a national lead agency for submarine cable issues.

Regional Cooperation

  1. Once designated, national lead agencies of States should coordinate (with industry/ICPC and other States) to (i) Develop regional Protocols to facilitate prompt cable repairs, and (ii) Develop standard procedures for both information sharing and to notify other regional nations of cable breaks and suspicious activity.
  2. Include desktop exercises to deal with cable breaks and threats to cables in regional multilateral and bilateral exercises.

ICPC Chairman, Neil Rondorf commented that the cooperation between the ICPC and national governments on security issues impacting submarine cables is a natural and beneficial partnership that hopefully will progress for the benefit of the international community.  He welcomed the bold leadership of CSCAP in taking on such an important challenge and highlighted the ICPC’s strong desire to work with CSCAP and its members on further studies and desktop exercises to reduce impediments to prompt repair of submarine cables and their improved security. He also noted the constructive role played by current ICPC government members from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Malta.

About ICPC

The ICPC was formed in 1958 and its primary goal is to promote the safeguarding of international submarine cables against man-made and natural hazards. The organisation provides a forum for the exchange of technical, legal and environmental information about submarine cables. With 144 members from over 60 nations, the ICPC is the World’s premier submarine cable organization. More information about the ICPC is available at www.iscpc.org