Somali Pirates Hold Back Seacom Cable, new opening date is 23 July

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Pirates off the coast of Somalia have scuttled plans for the long- awaited Seacom cable to be switched on this month because a cable-laying ship was unable to enter some treacherous territories.

In what must be the most unusual excuse ever presented for a delayed telecoms project, Seacom said the bandits intensified their attacks and spread their nets wider in April and last month , making it too dangerous for its crew and cargo to enter areas where other ships had been attacked or seized.

Last month CEO Brian Herlihy spoke about the piracy problem, and warned that the June 27 switch-on could be delayed because of the seafaring saboteurs.

The cable laying is now complete but the switch-on will now happen on July 23. It may happen sooner, Herlihy said, as Seacom was working with cable layer Tyco Telecommunications to see if the final stages could be speeded up.

"While I am truly disappointed by the delay, it was imperative that strong measures be put in place to guarantee the successful completion of the cable system and the safety of the ship and its crews.

"This setback should, however, be seen against the Herculean efforts made by the team to see this project come to fruition over an incredibly tight schedule of only 18 months," he said.

The 17000m, 600m cable was laid from India down Africa's east coast almost without incident until it reached the Horn of Africa when Tyco insisted that Seacom stopped displaying the location of the ship on its website. It also eavesdropped on pirates referring to its ship as a potentially lucrative ransom target, and hired a private gunboat to protect it.

Business Day