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Yemen’s Submarine Cable Repairs Hindered by Political Dispute

The Rubymar cargo ship sinks off Yemen’s coast after an attack by Houthi forces; its anchor is believed to have severed underwater internet cables.

Repair efforts for three crucial submarine internet cables damaged in the Red Sea are being obstructed by political disputes over access to Yemeni waters. The cables were damaged in February when the Rubymar vessel, believed to have been sunk by Houthi forces, disrupted internet connectivity between Europe and Asia—a route that handles around 25% of the region’s internet traffic.

Yemen cable dispute: Yemen’s internationally recognized government has authorized repairs for the Seacom and EIG cables but withheld permission for the AAE-1 cable due to a conflict with the TeleYemen telecommunications company, which is a member of the AAE-1 consortium. The dispute centers on the political division within TeleYemen, reflecting broader geopolitical splits in Yemen. TeleYemen operates two branches: one in Aden, under the government’s control, and another in Sanaa, held by the Houthi militia. The government has sought to exclude the Houthi-affiliated branch from the repair process, leading to a standoff with the consortium, which has not accepted an alternative representative proposed by the government.

The ongoing disputes: E-Marine, the company contracted for the repairs and a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Telecommunications Group, faces additional complications. The Aden branch of TeleYemen has demanded a £10 million bank guarantee to ensure E-Marine does not proceed with AAE-1 cable repairs amidst ongoing disputes, although this condition was later dismissed by Yemen’s cabinet.

The situation is further complicated by the Houthi control of a significant portion of Yemen’s Red Sea coastline, including the strategic port of Hodeida. They have indicated that only they have the authority to permit repairs, despite not officially responding to repair requests. Repair teams estimate a week to reach the damaged cables and two days for each repair, contingent on resolving these geopolitical tensions and ensuring further damage is not inflicted by the sunken Rubymar vessel.

By CircleID Reporter

CircleID’s internal staff reporting on news tips and developing stories. Do you have information the professional Internet community should be aware of? Contact us.

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