France Telecom-Orange submarine cable ship catches fire off Namibia

France Telecom-Orange's (NYSE: FTE) ongoing submarine cable efforts suffered a setback last Wednesday when an unexplained fire broke out on a submarine cable maintenance ship off the coast of Namibia after completing a repair on the SAT3-SAFE cable.

Orange cable ship Chamaral

The Chamarel. (Image courtesy of Orange)

SAT3-SAFE links Portugal and Spain to South Africa with connections to a number of West African countries along the route. It also forms part of the SAT-3/WASC/SAFE cable system, where the SAFE cable links South Africa to Asia.

The 56 crew members abandoned the Chamarel and were later rescued by a fishing vessel in the area. Orange said that the crew is currently in Walvis Bay, Namibia's largest port, and will be repatriated in the coming days.

"Despite the crew's efforts to control the fire, the decision was made to abandon the ship at around 8 p.m. local time," France Telecom-Orange said in a statement released Friday.

In addition to conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the fire, France Telecom-Orange said it would work with Namibian government officials to ensure it minimizes any environmental impact.

"This is a very serious incident, and I would like to express my sincere thanks to the crew members for their courage in managing the situation," said Thierry Bonhomme, senior executive vice president in charge of Networks and Carriers, and R&D, in a statement. "The safety of our crew is our primary concern and we will look closely at the results of the investigation. I am also grateful for the support provided by the Namibian authorities."

It added that the fire will not interrupt service on other area cables and that it will rework processes for future maintenance projects.

The service provider currently operates six cable ships: four dedicated to maintenance in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, and two--the Rene Descartes and the Teliri--which lay submarine cable systems worldwide.

For more:
- see the news release
- Telecompaper has this article

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