Submarine cable protection regime
Submarine telecommunications cables link Australia to global telecommunications networks and are vital to the national economy. Due to their nature and locations on the seabed, these cables are vulnerable to damage from activities such as the anchoring of ships, some types of fishing, dumping of materials, dredging and minerals exploration.
Schedule 3A of the Telecommunications Act 1997 establishes a regime for the protection of international submarine telecommunications cables.
Schedule 3A provides the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) with the authority to declare protection zones over international submarine telecommunication cables considered to be of national significance.
Activities within the protection zones that are likely to cause damage to cables may be prohibited and/or restricted and are subject to heavy criminal penalties. Under Schedule 3A, certain activities, including exploring for resources and mining and certain fishing activities are prohibited or restricted in protection zones.
Before declaring a protection zone the ACMA must undertake a comprehensive consultation process. This process includes the establishment of an advisory committee comprised of stakeholder representatives, and consultation with the Environment Secretary.
To date, three protection zones have been declared by the ACMA and are in effect.
- Map: Submarine Cable (Southern Sydney Protection Zone) Declaration 2007 (PDF, 163.0 KB)
- Map: Submarine Cable (Northern Sydney Protection Zone) Declaration 2007 (PDF, 252.8 KB)
- Map: Submarine Cable(Perth Protection Zone) Declaration 2007 (PDF, 1.1 MB)
Under Schedule 3A, a carrier seeking to install an international submarine cable must obtain from the ACMA a permit to do so. Different permits and processes apply depending on whether or not the installation is in a protection zone.
Review of Schedule 3A and proposed regulatory changes
In 2010 the ACMA conducted a review of the first five years of operation of the submarine cable protection regime. The ACMA's review concluded that the regime is working effectively and is achieving its policy objectives. It also made several recommendations to improve the operation of the cable protection regime.
Public consultation is now underway on proposed amendments to the submarine cable protection regime. The proposed amendments address the recommendations made by the ACMA and include other amendments to enhance the operation of Schedule 3A.
Stakeholders are encouraged to review the proposed amendments and provide comments. Information on the proposed amendments and on how to make a submission is available on the Proposed regulatory changes to the submarine cable protection regime page. Submissions close on 19 April 2013.
Further information about submarine telecommunications cables and Schedule 3A is on the ACMA website.