Submarine cables are an important component of Australia’s national communications infrastructure. These cables carry the bulk of Australia’s international voice and data traffic and provide a vital link between Australia and the rest of the world. However, due to their nature and location on the seabed, submarine cables are susceptible to damage from certain activities such as the anchoring of large vessels, some types of fishing, dumping of materials, dredging and minerals exploration.
Schedule 3A to the Telecommunications Act 1997 sets out the regulatory framework for the installation and protection of international submarine cables landing in Australia and enables the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to declare submarine cable protection zones. Protections zones are intended to stop or restrict activities that have the potential to damage submarine cables as well as to assist with the planning of cable locations. It is an offence to undertake prohibited or restricted activities, or cause damage to a submarine cable in a protection zone, and criminal penalties apply. The ACMA can initiate the process of declaring a protection zone or a person or organisation may request the ACMA declare a zone.
The ACMA has prepared a guide that provides an overview of the legislative framework and the ACMA’s approach to declaring protection zones. It also provides information to assist applicants who wish to request the ACMA to declare a protection zone:
The ACMA has developed a separate guide which provides information about the installation permit process for submarine cables:
Current protection zones
There are currently three protection zones in force in Australia. These are the Northern and Southern Sydney protection zones (collectively known as the NSW protection zones) and the Perth Protection zone off the coast of Western Australia. These zones are enabled by the following declarations:
Requesting a protection zone
A person considering requesting the ACMA to declare a protection zone should contact ACMA staff of the Networks Section to discuss the application and information requirements prior to making an application:
PO Box 13112 Law Courts
Melbourne VIC 8010
T 03 9963 6800