Submarine cable owners seek injunctions to prevent fishermen from trawling
The owners of two submarine transatlantic communications cables are seeking High Court injunctions to prevent owners of fishing boats from fishing near their property.
The action was brought by GTT Communications and related entities Hibernia Express Ireland Ltd and Hibernia Atlantic Cable System Limited, which operate between Ireland, UK and Canada.
The court heard cables carry data from some of the largest financial firms, telecommunications companies and cloud operators. A cable carries key information for traders on the global stock markets.
The companies say the owners of several fishing vessels have trawled in the waters near the cables, which would pose a high risk of damage to the cables.
The companies say the defendants’ actions also put trawler crews at risk, as cables are loaded and there is a history of sinking vessels that have had their fishing gear caught in underwater cables. The cable owners are seeking various orders against Brendan, Denis, James and John O’Flaherty, as alleged registered owners of several fishing vessels operating out of Kilmore Quay in County Wexford.
The orders sought include an injunction preventing them from trawling, dropping anchor or interfering with the seabed within 1 km of the cables until the full dispute is resolved.
The applicants claim that the cables threatened by the alleged actions of the fishermen are the “D-segment cable” which connects Sutton, Dublin, via the Irish Sea, before heading west to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Scotland, Canada.
The defendants oppose the claims and say there is no legal basis for a court to make such orders. The decrees would prevent them from engaging in lawful fishing activities, they say. Another cable allegedly at risk is the Hibernia Express Cable, which connects Brean to the UK, lands in Co Cork, before heading to Halifax. Ciaran Lewis SC, on behalf of the companies, said the issue was urgent.
Number of incidents
His clients, following several incidents, had asked the defendants to stop fishing near the cables, but they had not done so. Cables, he said, are extremely expensive to repair when damaged and range from € 600,000 to € 1.4 million for each repair.
Darren Lehane SC, on behalf of the fishermen, said they were currently at sea and was unable to make any commitments to the tribunal until they could speak to them. The case is complex and should be heard by the judge designated to hear admiralty cases, he said.
Madam Justice Leonie Reynolds acknowledged the urgency of the case given the serious health and safety allegations made. She said the case could not be heard until after the Easter break. She postponed it until later this week to set a hearing date for the dispute.