Halifax trawler faces arrest over broken Greenland cable

An arrest warrant has been issued for a Halifax-registered shrimp trawler that Greenland’s largest telecommunications company accuses of twice breaking its subsea fibre-optic cable.

Greenland telecom company accuses owners and crew of Acadienne Gale II of negligence

A Greenland telecommunications company is suing the owner of a Halifax-registered trawler after the vessel allegedly damaged a subsea cable. (CBC)

An arrest warrant has been issued for a Halifax-registered shrimp trawler that Greenland’s largest telecommunications company accuses of twice breaking its subsea fibre optic cable.

Tele Greenland alleges in documents filed in the Federal Court of Canada that the crew, the master and owners of the Acadienne Gale II were negligent when the trawler’s fishing gear allegedly caused $2 million worth of damage last year.

The Greenland Connect cable was snapped twice in May 2013, affecting international customers whose Internet service ran between Canada and Iceland.

The Acadienne Gale II is currently in Denmark. If it's placed under arrest, it means the ship is forbidden from sailing until the court case is resolved or both parties agree it can move.

None of the allegations against the Acadienne Gale II’s crew or owners have been proven in court. They have not yet filed a defence.

The president of Acadienne Gale Fisheries Ltd. could not be reached for comment, and his affiliated company, Davis Strait Fisheries Ltd., said it would not be commenting.

The lawyer for Tele Greenland said he could not comment on the case until owners of the Acadienne Gale II have filed a statement of defence.

Tele Greenland is suing for damages and alleges in court documents that the Acadienne Gale II was operated in an "unsafe and unseamanlike manner," that outdated charts were being used, and that fishing gear was not properly controlled and monitored.

The court action is one in a growing number of legal cases involving vessels allegedly damaging underwater telecommunications infrastructure.
Hundreds of kilometres of subsea cable is stored at IT International Telecom. The Halifax company repairs broken telecommunications cables. (CBC)

Fibre optic cables crisscross oceans, allowing people to make overseas phone calls or surf internet sites from another part of the world.

Vessels in Canadian waters are required to keep up-to-date charts on board that show the location of cable lanes. Vessels are to avoid anchoring or fishing in those areas.

But boats continue to be the major threat to subsea cables around the world. A 2009 report by the International Cable Protection Committee says two-thirds of all cable breaks are caused by anchors or fishing, amounting to more than 100 each year.

Nova Scotia-headquartered Eastlink suffered a break in March when the bulk carrier John I lost power and ran aground, dragging its anchor over a fibre optic cable three kilometres off Rose Blanche, N.L.

Eastlink says in court documents that repairs to the cable were going to cost about $1 million. The company is suing the owners of the Panamanian-registered vessel for damages.

In the case of Tele Greenland, the company took Fisheries and Oceans Canada to court earlier this year after the federal department refused to hand over tracking data that would pinpoint the particular vessel in the area when the cable broke.

Tele Greenland says it has now accessed satellite data from a commercial provider and alleges the Acadienne Gale II is the culprit.