News 07 Mar, 2008

Underwater Cables and Pipelines

Damage to underwater cables and pipelines by ships’ anchors continue to produce very large civil liability claims against shipowners, not only for repairs but also for the resulting interruption of production or supply of power, communications or products such as oil or gas.

It now appears that coastal state authorities may be taking a tougher line in respect of vessels damaging underwater facilities.

In certain jurisdictions, and as occurred recently in the Persian Gulf where a vessel not entered in the Club is reported to have damaged a communications cable some distance away after dragging anchor in heavy winds, criminal proceedings may be brought against vessels’ masters and they and/or crews may be arrested.

When anchoring Masters should ensure that the anchor is dropped well away from any underwater cables or pipelines, taking into account the local weather forecast and the likely track of the anchor if it starts to drag. Masters should also be mindful that ships may move a considerable distance very quickly in such circumstances unless the main engine is ready for immediate use.