Damaged WACS sections being replaced

11 September 2019 | Technology

Swakopmund • Erwin Leuschner

A two kilometre section of the West Africa Cable System (WACS) submarine cable is being replaced at the Swakopmund beach at the moment. This newspaper spoke to one of the engineers who have come from all over the world to work on this project, which should be completed later this week.
The 14 500 km fiber-optic submarine communications cable was connected to shore at Swakopmund early in 2011 and connects Europe to Southern Africa. “Since then we have had to do maintenance work twice on the cable at Swakopmund,” the engineer said.
At the moment the cable lies at the northern end of the Mole. Because of boulders in the water and the strong current, the cable was partially damaged. “So, before it is completely destroyed, we decided to replace a section and relocate it,” he said.
The new length of cable, which leads from the beach into the ocean, is now being relocated further north to prevent the problem from recurring.
According to the engineer, the cable replacement is of a very complex nature.
Work began on Saturday and for this reason, the French cable ship Léon Thévenin is currently anchored around 2 km from the beach. On Monday, the existing WACS cable was hoisted from the seabed and pulled on board, after which the fusion of the new cable began on the same day.
“It can take up to 16 hours before the fusion of hair-thin fiber is complete. Then the cable is tested and lowered back into the water. In the meantime, the cable is buried on the beach,” he said.
It is due to this work being carried out that internet speed in Namibia has been slowed. “But this should normalize in the next few days.”