Virgin Media Files Cases Against Fishermen in High Court Alleging Damage to Its Underwater Cables
By Sean Murry, TheJournal.ie
November 7, 2018
VIRGIN MEDIA HAS filed cases in the High Court against the owners of two fishing trawlers, over alleged damage done by the vessels to underwater cables.
In the two filings this week, the media firm has launched cases against two Wexford-based trawlers.
Virgin Media operates underwater fibre optic cables, between England and Ireland and between Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is understood that damage was incurred and the firm is looking to recoup costs from fishermen they allege were responsible.
While there are efforts in place to help trawlers avoid damaging submarine wires, cables that aren’t fully buried in the ocean floor can also cause damage to vessels.
TheJournal.ie understands that Virgin Media is seeking a six-figure sum from at least one of the trawlers following technical issues which arose a number of years ago when the trawler snagged some underground cable owned by the company.
The company has engaged with the owners of the trawlers on numerous occasions in the intervening years, and it is understood any legal action will be vigorously opposed.
Maps are available for trawler operators to see where cables are laid, with an extensive network off the southern coast of Ireland in particular.
Damage to these cables can cause a slowdown in broadband speeds for customers, as happened in 2015 when a Virgin Media cable in the Irish Sea broke.
It required sending down a large robot to fix it, Wired reported.
Such damage could be done by an anchor or other fishing gear. However, while trawlers can do damage to underground cables, the reverse is also true. Cables damage vessels if they are snagged, and they can even risk sinking the boat.
There is legal precedence for telecoms companies suing fishing vessels in other jurisdictions. In 2015, Canadian firm Eastlink took the owners of a fishing vessel to court claiming that nearly $1 million worth of damage had been done.