back to article Underwater cables in Red Sea damaged months after Houthis 'threatened' to do just that

Undersea data cables in the Red Sea have reportedly been damaged, months after Yemeni Houthi rebels apparently threatened to do so. At least 15 submarine cables pass through the Bab al-Mandab Strait at the southern end of the Red Sea, a body of water just 26km wide at some points. Yemen is the Strait’s northern shore. The …

  1. DS999 Silver badge

    Why do they need a submarine?

    You only need that if you want to tap the cable. If you want to damage it, you just need a small but powerful boat like a tugboat to drag its anchor around in the area where the cable is and if you get lucky and snag it, just power your engines to full and keep pulling. It'll break.

    This is easily within the capability of the Houthis. They've probably been trying it for a while and finally got lucky.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Why do they need a submarine?

      Indeed. I think that a lot of times that undersea cables get damaged, the cause is from anchors.

      I know of at least two companies who provide a service for monitoring shipping movements/behaviour with a view to identifying potential subsea asset damage.

    2. Gordon 10
      Thumb Up

      Re: Why do they need a submarine?

      I came here to say the same thing. Pretty much any threat actor has the wherewithal to hire or steal a big enough boat to drag an anchor around the seabed.

      Why is this a surprise?

      1. abend0c4 Silver badge

        Re: Why do they need a submarine?

        Why is this a surprise?

        Good question. Asymmetric warfare isn't new but it doesn't seem to register on the radars of conventional security forces until it's too late. I imagine a submarine commander might find it difficult to accept that a boat anchor could perhaps accomplish a mission of this kind equally well and that a submarine would offer little practical defence. Meanwhile, other potentially vulnerable infrastructure is no doubt being surveyed with ingenious scrutiny.

        1. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Why do they need a submarine?

          I would hope that a 500kV 2kA electric cable would have slightly more mechanical strength than a bundle of optical fibres, and would thus be more resistant to being damaged by a boat dragging its anchor, but I may be wrong.

          On the downside, the electromagnetic field from such a cable probably means someone has invented a torpedo / guided depth charge that can home on to it

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Why do they need a submarine?

            I would hope that a 500kV 2kA electric cable would have slightly more mechanical strength than a bundle of optical fibres, and would thus be more resistant to being damaged by a boat dragging its anchor, but I may be wrong.

            A lot depends on the anchor. I used to assume there was loads of high-tech gubbins involved in this industry, until I worked in it. So either drag the cable with a plain'ol anchor until it snags on something and snaps. Or just use a cutting anchor. Or 2 ships sailing in opposite directions to increase the shear stress. But none of that is anything I'd want to do with a 2kA power cable. Unless I had a few sacks of rice to chuck in where the steam's surfacing.

            As for restoring the cables, that's going to be the fun part, especially if the Houthis have chosen the locations carefully. Like placing the scarce cable ships inside missile range. Hopefully the Navy(s) will provide an escort screen while the cable ships are working.

            1. cyberdemon Silver badge

              Re: Why do they need a submarine?

              Tbh, in the case of electric cables it's not the red sea i'm worried about so much as the English Channel. What are the chances of a saboteur being on board a ship big enough to do damage?

              1. Xalran

                Re: Why do they need a submarine?

                Most of the cables in the English Channel nowadays uses the holes where trains go swooooosh!!!!...... Also known as the Channel Tunnel.

                Why bother taking the risk of having your cable ripped by a French/English/Belgian/Irish/Spanish/whomever trawler that ply the Channel waters when you have a nice hole in the ground where the only risk is an eventual burning truck every few decades.

                Now the power cables between UK and France are not in the Channel Tunnel due to technical reasons.

                The main reasons is that the electromagnetic disturbances caused by a DC current cable would be massive on the tunnel installations.

                Also IIRC the power cables have been put in a trench that has been refilled with the local sand so they can't really be caught by an anchor...

                But all that is specific to the English Channel, everywhere else in the world telecommunication cables are just sitting duck to a stray anchor except when they come near the coast ( they are hidden in sand within a few miles of the coasts )

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: Why do they need a submarine?

                  "But all that is specific to the English Channel, everywhere else in the world telecommunication cables are just sitting duck to a stray anchor except when they come near the coast "

                  Ehhhhhh, the cables are installed in places where ships aren't expected to anchor just for the reason of the cable being damaged accidentally. If you ever wondered why cables come ashore in some odd hollow along the coast away from the ports, now you know.

                  I expect that it wouldn't be too hard with the proper resources to get the exact path of an undersea cable. With that information, rigging up a cable cutter that can be lowered down to snag and severe the cable won't require a sub. With a powered cutter, it wouldn't even take a very large ship to do the work. Make the dangly bit cheap and there's little value in bringing it back up to use again.

          2. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Why do they need a submarine?

            On the downside, the electromagnetic field from such a cable probably means someone has invented a torpedo / guided depth charge that can home on to it

            I'd think that you'd do better with a MAD sensor or sidescan sonar to find an underwater cable than an EM field sensor; water is presumably going to block EM field propagation fairly efficiently given how much of it there is at sea.

            1. cyberdemon Silver badge

              Re: Why do they need a submarine?

              These would be DC cables so no 'waves' to absorb, just a static electric and magnetic field which are not blocked by water.

              MAD sensor is probably exactly what you'd need. But if the E field is enough to confuse fish and crustaceans which apparently it is with underwater HVDC cables, then it could be picked up by a sensor.

          3. gandalfcn Silver badge

            Re: Why do they need a submarine?

            Ships' anchors weigh several tonnes.

          4. Neiljohnuk

            Re: Why do they need a submarine?

            "I would hope that a 500kV 2kA electric cable would have slightly more mechanical strength than a bundle of optical fibres, and would thus be more resistant to being damaged by a boat dragging its anchor, but I may be wrong."

            Subsea Optical fibre cables have a steel core 'king' wire and steel wire over-wrapping, along with serious waterproofing layers, so not 'weak', but against a dragging anchor from a big drifting ship like the Rubymar most cables will break. I worked on BTMarines cable repair jointing system 30 years ago, I still work in the fibre field and subsea cable construction hasn't changed significantly since.

        2. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: Why do they need a submarine?

          " I imagine a submarine commander might find it difficult to accept that a boat anchor could perhaps accomplish a mission of this kind" It's in basic training, also seamanship manuals.

          1. gandalfcn Silver badge

            Re: Why do they need a submarine?

            It's in basic training, also seamanship manuals. As any qualified navigator knows.

        3. JulieM Silver badge

          Re: Why do they need a submarine?

          When the only tool you have is a fantastically expensive Magic Hammer™ costing thousands of pounds that uses a built-in camera to identify the recess in any screw head, automatically selects the matching bit from its repertoire, inserts it into a mechanism which will converts the impact into rotary motion and dynamically maintains the tip in alignment with the screw as the tool is swung, it's very easy to forget just how cheaply traditional screwdrivers can be purchased .....

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Why do they need a submarine?

            it's very easy to forget just how cheaply traditional screwdrivers can be purchased .....

            It's also one of those technology things. Once upon a time, drones were expensive and specialised. Now they're disposable. Much the same with underwater drones or tech like sonar. That stuff used to be really expensive, now we can buy these pretty cheaply. Depths are obviously still a challenge, but simple tech like LEDs has made it a lot easier to do visual surveys.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Why do they need a submarine?

              "Depths are obviously still a challenge, "

              I don't see why. Just build an ROV with very little air space inside and it could go down as far as you like. If the intent is a one way mission, building cheap would be easy. The big expense comes with making something robust enough to last a decade and carry very expensive sensing gear. LED lighting can be awesome and can be given a spray or dip in some sealing goo just good enough to see the lights through one mission and there is no need to put them in expensive pressure tight housings. Water and electricity can mix if you only need the thing to work for a limited amount of time (low-voltage).

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Why do they need a submarine?

        It does depend on the depth of the bottom, where the cables were cut. There is a limit to how long a ship's anchor chain is - although I'm sure it's possible to rig one that's longer.

        The multiple cables that were cut in the Baltic last year were traced to a Chinese-flagged ship that seems to have dragged its anchor for about 200km. But the Baltic is a lot shallower than the Red Sea, and cables tend to be better protected as they get nearer to shore. So it's not completely straighforward.

        1. Marcelo Rodrigues
          Boffin

          Re: Why do they need a submarine?

          "There is a limit to how long a ship's anchor chain is - although I'm sure it's possible to rig one that's longer."

          There is a limit of how long a chain made ONLY of chains can be, before it snaps under its own weight. BUT

          Jacques Cousteau already got a camera down the Mariana Trenches - to the very bottom.

          The trick to not snap the chain was to alternate: a stretch made of chain, another one made of buoyant nylon. One balanced the other, and everything worked fine.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Why do they need a submarine?

            Presumably these cables are like the cross section examples I’ve seen in a museum with multiple spirals of steel cable on the outside providing armour.

            At a reasonable depth, hooking on and pulling to the surface a few tonnes in water with a marine salvage crane, then the damage can be applied with a large angle grinder.

            1. cyberdemon Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Why do they need a submarine?

              You can take an angle grinder to a HVDC cable if you like.. There wouldn't be much left of you afterwards!

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: Why do they need a submarine?

                You can take an angle grinder to a HVDC cable if you like.. There wouldn't be much left of you afterwards!

                Interesting. Do these fibre optic communication cables that the article is about also carry HVDC?

                1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                  Re: Why do they need a submarine?

                  Interesting. Do these fibre optic communication cables that the article is about also carry HVDC?

                  Yep, although the H is a bit smaller. Resistance might be futile, but it's also physics. So the torpedoes installed along a cable require power for amplifying and regenerating the signals. So cable has the steel armour wire for protection and strength, and copper conductors to supply the power. There's a.. fair bit of resistance on a 7,000km cable so a fair bit of power injected by the PFE (Power Feeding Equipment) at either end. One cable station I visited had a line on the floor warning not to cross it while the PFE was humming quietly to itself. Plus a dustpan, brush and ashtray on the safe side for clean-up if anyone ignored the warning. I've always kinda hated HVDC for it's ability to turn the careless into arclights.

                  Somewhere on YT there's a bunch of videos Hibernia Atlantic put up showing things like how they fix cable cuts.

          2. Golgafrinch

            Re: Why do they need a submarine?

            -> "Jacques Cousteau already got a camera down the Mariana Trenches - to the very bottom."

            I don't mean to be pedantic, but may you be confusing Jacques-Yves Cousteau with Jacqes Piccard? (Yes, I am that old ...)

        2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

          Re: Why do they need a submarine?

          You would be surprised how many of the worlds choke points or important water channels are actually quite shallow. THe Gulf for example is actually quite shallow, Suez and English channel or Baltic its all shallow.

        3. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: Why do they need a submarine?

          "It does depend on the depth of the bottom, where the cables were cut." Bab el Mandeb area is shallow.

        4. Luiz Abdala
          Holmes

          Re: Why do they need a submarine?

          Hanlon's Razor is hard to believe on this one. Nobody would be such a twat to drag an anchor for 200km without ill intent.

          Or maybe they would?

      3. TheWeetabix Bronze badge

        Re: Why do they need a submarine?

        It’s only a surprise insomuch as first world nations can’t bring themselves to fathom (hah) that a man with a boat and a few hundred feet of chain can cause this much damage.

    3. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

      Re: Why do they need a submarine?

      >>This is easily within the capability of the Houthis.

      Even if it weren't (which it is), it is well within the capabilities of their backers....

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Why do they need a submarine?

        I'm just wondering... What's the chance of accidently damaging a cable from thousands of boats everyday using their anchors, versus the chance of damaging a cable deliberately from a few malintentioned boats?

        I don't know the makeup of the sea bed, but could a would-be saboteur tell the difference between tugging at cable and tugging at a rock, of which there might be many? All that National Geographic-style remote imaging equipment looks expensive.

        1. ozone89

          Re: Why do they need a submarine?

          just adding my ¢¢

          every so often, one of the trunks connecting Sardinia to the continent needs to be repaired because some wanker in a yacht or motorboat either yanks it with an anchor, or plain chops it with the propeller while transiting thru the trait where the cable is submerging and tied to buoys (where they shouldn't as it's too near the coastline).

          so yeah, it is entirely possible by accident, let alone on purpose.

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Why do they need a submarine?

          Dave 126,

          Accidental damage to cables happens all the time. Either through fishing, or anchoring in the wrong place.

          How often these accidents get chalked down to actual attacks is another question. Or I suppose some of the accidents may not be as accidental as we first thought? It's all pretty hard to prove.

          It gets more suspicious when mutiple cables go out all at once. But even that isn't beyond the laws of Murphy. Especially where they're closer together.

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: Why do they need a submarine?

            .. And Murphy was an optimist.

            How hard would it be to rig up something that goes boom on a timer and will last long enough to hit the spot where the cable is? no need to drag an anchor around or dive down to it.

            I'm just throwin out wild-butt guesses, and I'm probably very much wrong. :)

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Why do they need a submarine?

              How hard would it be to rig up something that goes boom on a timer and will last long enough to hit the spot where the cable is? no need to drag an anchor around or dive down to it.

              J.Cook,

              Quite hard actually.

              Diving to put bombs on cables is as easy as the depth of the dive allows. If the cables are quite shallow, anyone can do it. If it's quite deep, you need specialist equipment, a support ship to hang around for a while, and well trained divers. So with the Nordstream attacks there was an investigation into a small yacht chartered in Poland and whether Ukrainian special forces had done it. Nobody seems to have come up with any answers on this, just rumour. But that's at a depth where you need gas mixes, not just air, and so they'd have had to do the dive with minimal support and safety kit, and no decompression chamber. Maybe a risk worth taking, if you're at war, although as the pipe wasn't in operation at the time - I'd still bet against it. The Russians had much better equipped ships out there at the same time.

              Just randomly dropping explosives and hoping for the best is pretty much a no-go. There are currents. So how do you know your time bomb is going to get anywhere near the target? The deeper you go, the higher the water pressure, the smaller the effective range of any explosion. Could you build a sort of slow torpedo that could find the cable by visual or sonar? Probably. But that's getting quite complex and expensive.

              So I'd say it's anchor-dragging or diving.

              1. BOFH in Training

                Re: Why do they need a submarine?

                Do you need actual divers if you can send in remotely controlled underwater drones to place explosive at the cable area? Y

                You dont even need the drone to return as you can just have it parked at the cable with the bombs and going boom with a timer. The "base ship" only has to hang around until the drone reaches the bottom, after that, once drone is attached to the cable, can just cut the control / power cable from the ship to the drone and just move off.

                Depending on the depth, and the speed of the drone, it may take a few minutes to a couple of hours to get it done and the ship to move off.

              2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: Why do they need a submarine?

                The Russians had much better equipped ships out there at the same time.

                As did the US, and all the other Baltic state navies. Who also had far more incentive to blow up the pipeline. It also didn't really need special forces divers given poking holes in pipes with shaped charges is something commercial divers working in the oil & gas industry do regularly. Ukraine has those. Sweden and Denmark have curiously decided to drop their investigations. Strange when this was the biggest single act of sabotage in the EU's history.

          2. gandalfcn Silver badge

            Re: Why do they need a submarine?

            "How often these accidents get chalked down to actual attacks is" lots of them by the paranoid conspiracy theory types.

        3. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Why do they need a submarine?

          When you lower your anchor you typically want to stay in the same place, so you won't go dragging that anchor for miles. So yes you can hook a cable and damage by accident, but damaging cables is far more likely if that's your goal - you're dragging your anchor on the seafloor deliberately in an area you know or have reason to believe has a cable.

        4. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: Why do they need a submarine?

          Charts give the location of cables and cables ore often damaged by ships' dragging their anchor.

    4. Xalran

      Re: Why do they need a submarine?

      For some cables they don't even have to bother (AAE-1 specifically) they can damage/destroy the ground station in Yemen without having to play grappling hook with the cable.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why do they need a submarine?

      Apart from the obvious fact that the west knows where those cables are located and are already patrolling the area so I doubt old-mate in his shitbox is going to be able to loiter in the area dragging anchors.

    6. ShortLegs

      Re: Why do they need a submarine?

      They dont. Sharks do quite nicely

      And now I cant find the circa 2003 story I was looking for

  2. unimaginative
    Unhappy

    The government is planning to supply a lot more of our electricity through undersea cables, and this time from North Africa: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2024/02/26/britain-harness-power-sahara-solar-farms-cable-laying-ship/

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge

      And already we are completely reliant on electricity interconnectors from Europe. The UK grid would not function today without them.

      For yesterday's peak load we were pulling 7GW (18%) from interconnectors, and they provided 25% of the overnight load.

      https://gridwatch.co.uk/demand

      Adding another 4GW of solar-powered interconnector just further reduces the resilience of the grid from an already perilous point, it's crazy

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        >further reduces the resilience of the grid from an already perilous point, it's crazy<

        There is no resilience, for a long while now we've occasionally* had enough UK online generation to be self sufficient during winter months.

        It's not just crazy, it's criminally incompetent to have allowed the situation to develop never mind let it persist.

        *When wind speeds across the UK are in the sweet spot.

      2. hoola Silver badge

        It is not the reliance on "The Grid" that is the issue. One the connectors terminate everything is dependent on the National Grid. The underlying issue is that we do not generate enough power preferring to import it.

        On the other hand all those offshore windfarms also need cables.

      3. Tomazim

        Reliance on interconnectors is by design - it's the only sensible way to spread the generation and consumption to average out risks.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      The government is planning to supply a lot more of our electricity through undersea cables,

      No, they're not. They're letting a bunch of chancers exploit our broken energy market to profit from insane ideas like this. Ignoring the cost of the cable, the cost of the solar farms, the political and practical challenges of keeping all that operational.. It's an amazing idea, and will increase UK energy costs even further.

      Alternatively, we order 10 more NPPs and call it good.

      1. Lurko

        "Alternatively, we order 10 more NPPs and call it good."

        The solar power from the Sahara idea is a moronic one even by the standards of UK energy policy Unfortunately whilst from a tech point of view it's an excellent idea, 10 more NPPs are not a viable solution. We've recently debated the price of Hinkley Point, and that's officially looking like a £46bn outturn and about six years late. Since there is not the spare capacity to build these plants and the highly specialised components, we'd need to build these sequentially, but countries like France have a similar problem thus creating supply chain constraints on vital reactor components eg pressure vessels, high pressure piping, key forgings and the like. So any economies of scale of repeat orders and cookie cutter plans will be wholly eaten by market forces, and then some more - I know this to be true as I was programme controller for hundreds of millions of pounds worth of capital projects in the water sector after privatisation, and that's exactly what happened when demand for asset construction capability caught up with supply. Even specialised non-NPP plant like high reach concrete pumps will be in short supply and with very long lead times, as will skills like test drilling, piling, high integrity welding, control systems, archaeology, social research, environmental impact assessors etc. So ten NPP will cost 460 beeellion quid, indexed up to whatever CPI is at the point we choose to look at the bill. Worth also bearing in mind that there's not a good range of reactor designs. Westinghouse is effectively dead, Kepco have no European experience, and that really only leaves EDF (who had the bankrupt tatters of Areva forced onto them by the French government).

        Let's say we ignore the cost and single supplier risks and just get on. Probably reasonable that nationally we can overlap construction of two NNP, each of two reactors as per Hinkley C. Could we overlap 3? I don't think so unless we import the workforce; that's what they did at Oikilyuoto (sp) in Finland, resulting in problems that meant ten years of delays and going so over budget that the Finnish government and Areva decided to stop admitting how deep the hole was, and Areva going bust. Anyway, assume the 10xNPP construction goes ahead at 2 concurrent, we'd need to phase starts, so NPP 1 starts in a year's time (wildly optimistic), and takes nine years (a bit optimistic). So NPP2 build starts in 2030, NPP3 in 2034 (when we get the first power from NPP1), NPP5 build starts in 2039....we don't finish the ten until 2070, at which point it's cost 460 beeellion quid, indexed up to whatever CPI is at the point you choose to look at the bill plus any supply chain squeeze costs.

        To give us 10 NPP in any reasonable time scale required a political commitment twenty or thirty years ago. Key villains here are Maggie/Major for privatising the CEGB and surrendering everything to market forces, and to Blair/Brown, whose governments initially rejected nuclear (Margaret Beckett's 2002 energy review), and subsequently dithered on nuclear for their entire time in office. The current shower of piddle's role in this mess is comparatively modest, other than for kicking the can down the road for a further fourteen years.

        Meanwhile, whilst the politicians and their mates in Just Stop Oil fart around, dancing around their eco-handbags, China approved 40% more NEW coal generating capacity last year than Britain's TOTAL generating capacity from all fuels. India meanwhile has roughly the same new coal capacity under active development or build as the UK's entire fleet. Somebody's a mug here. We'll not see either British or EU politicians give up on their net zero beliefs, but even if we did that's hardly an option - years of flawed policy means we've lost the design and manufacturing capacity for coal power stations whilst opening our markets to cheap Chinese imports made with coal power.

        There are no good answers now - decades of idiotic policies have created a Cat-in-the-Hat mess that magically combines the worst of all possible options into a single unaffordable mess. Nobody liked it before when I mooted trebling our offshore wind fleet, and using gas for standby, but at the moment I've yet to see anything that's both technically and economically better.

        I'd suggest a politician + relatives and friends fired power station - organic, sustainable, no shortage of fatty fuels. And no need to shoot anyone - just feed the bastards into the fuel hopper kicking and squirming.

        1. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Unhappy

          *sigh* so it's LNG or bust, then.

          And with only 3 import terminals plus the brouhaha in the red sea, that looks sketchy too.

          Had OVO on the phone this morning trying to sell me a "heat battery".. Things are getting desperate.

          1. Lurko

            "*sigh* so it's LNG or bust, then."

            It's going to be a mix - gas, ludicrously over-priced nuclear*, on and offshore wind, and all those shitty solar farms that don't help us but are great earners for the investment banks that own them. Because there's no coherent strategy, it's likely we'll still be reliant on LNG in 2050, because even in the Net Zero Fairyland it'll be the feedstock for hydrogen.

            The UK's Civil Nuclear Strategy updated last month states the bunglement is "Aiming to secure investment decisions to deliver 3-7GW every five years from 2030 to 2044, to meet our ambition to deploy up to 24GW of nuclear power by 2050." Interestingly that's a fair chunk of Jellied Eel's 10 @ 3.2 GWe. Question is, how much will it really cost, is doing that in half the time my earlier post suggested remotely realistic? Unfortunately, 24 GW doesn't help too much - if we electrify transport per the government's wet dreams, then assuming off-peak charging, that could increase baseload from around 22 GW to perhaps 35 GW. So we'd still need to find about 7-10 GW (depending on derating) for baseload from other sources. That's before electrification of heating (or electrolysis for hydrogen), which could double electricity demand in the winter months, even allowing for load management and better insulation. There's some really good stuff in National Grid FES, but as they're a politically savvy company, they won't come out and say "Government: You have no energy strategy, your decisions are poor and delayed by decades, your understanding is minimal, your ideas are technically flawed, unaffordable and timelines pure fantasy".

            * The original claim by Areva was that the EPR used at Hinkley C would produce power for £24/MWh. The current "strike price" for Hinkley Point is around £126 MWh, with a possibility that we'll have to top that up for the increases and delays. Have a think about that.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Interestingly that's a fair chunk of Jellied Eel's 10 @ 3.2 GWe. Question is, how much will it really cost, is doing that in half the time my earlier post suggested remotely realistic?

              I have been keeping up! Or trying to..

              Question is, how much will it really cost, is doing that in half the time my earlier post suggested remotely realistic?

              Therein lies the problem. China's managed to build and operate EPR designs far faster than the French seem able to manage. So sure, China can easily throw bodies at the problem. But then China's also been taking the long view and encouraging a workforce that can help meet their construction targets. We haven't, and trades have been neglected. So we ended up having to import lots of welders and other trades folks.

              Unfortunately, 24 GW doesn't help too much - if we electrify transport per the government's wet dreams, then assuming off-peak charging, that could increase baseload from around 22 GW to perhaps 35 GW.

              Yup. Therein lies the other problem. We're hell bent on decarbonisation to meet 'legally binding' targets that could just be repealed. We could.. not bother, or reset the targets in line with more realistic targets that would allow NPPs to get built. Or SMRs, which in theory could just be rolled off a production line and brought into service much faster & cheaper. Hopefully Hinkley is being given a very hairy eyeball to determine exactly why it's taking so long, and costing so much. Especially as it's not really a FOAK design.

              The original claim by Areva was that the EPR used at Hinkley C would produce power for £24/MWh. The current "strike price" for Hinkley Point is around £126 MWh, with a possibility that we'll have to top that up for the increases and delays. Have a think about that.

              It's still cheaper than most CfDs for off-shore windmills, and doesn't need batteries. In theory, the consortium bears the risk of cost overruns. In practice, we'll probably end up bailing out EDF. Again. Plus we're probably going to have more fun next week when we find out how much CfDs will increase after tobacco duty is applied and pushes up inflation again.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          What I want to know is how do the Saudis do for $10bn what we cannot for £46bn? That's some next-level pork-barrelling there.

        3. Tomazim

          Astounding that it's 2024 and people are still arguing in favour of coal electricity plants.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Alternatively, we order 10 more NPPs and call it good.

        You don't seem to be bothered by how feasible your "solutions" are. We can't already have one NPP every 20 years. Sure if you can't cope with reality, you can rant. But rant is rant. It assumes defeat.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          It assumes defeat

          Doing nothing, or following the wrong policy even though it should be perfectly obvious it's the wrong policy simply assures defeat.

  3. JohnyModem68

    Only last week there was press about the Houthis with submersible drones.

    So, could they have damaged the cables? Sure, why not? Find the cable with the submersible drone. Drag it with either the drone or a surface vessel's anchor until it won't move anymore and you've probably damaged the cable. Job done and threat fulfilled!

    1. lnLog

      If you have a underwater drone and/or have identified the cable some other way, you just set a charge and blow it, no need for dragging

    2. david1024

      Not really

      The undersea drones that Iran seems to be providing would not function at any significant depth. You get about 50psi per 100 ft of depth (rounded here for convenience, not mathematical accuracy). Seawater is very conductive too. So you have significant problems with the vehicle controls, fuse design, and keeping your 'powder dry' at anything more than a couple hundred feet.

      I think the media outlets do the world a disservice when they disparage the folks in the region. It discourages serious assessments of actual capabilities.

      Iran and it's proxies will try anything a few times and cable locations/routes are pretty well known. The cables are tough, but just wiggling them can permanently degrade the performance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not really

        "The undersea drones that Iran seems to be providing would not function at any significant depth."

        Well the Houthis don't have the capability for much better than pearl diving, if Iran didn't do it then who is in the frame? Iran's been encouraged by Russia, there's been two way exchange of weapons between Iran and Russia, Russia's been known for cutting undersea communications cables so the logical conclusion is that the Russians supplied the expertise, and perhaps even did it. Deniability for Russia, and for Iran, and a bunch of mad AK47 waving tribesmen happily take the blame.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not really

          Exactly. There's no way that a group of disgruntled former goat herders have this capability. The mad Russian however does and seems to be sinking to ever greater depths as the conflict in Ukraine drags on well past his envisioned end date.

      2. -v(o.o)v-

        Re: Not really

        Near the west coast of Yemen most of the cables are at about 70 feet (it is that fathoms/meters?) depth. Look at any mariner charts and you'll see they are marked.

    3. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      It doesnt work like that. Radio waves basically dont work underwater, the deeper you go the lower the radio frequency which means basically almost nothing in bandwidth. If you want control which requires a high bandwidth you need a cable.

  4. Omnipresent Bronze badge

    one word

    russia.

  5. bernmeister

    Its not high tech.

    Sub-marine cables dont need high tech to find and damage. A towed sledge across the cable is all that is needed. Thats how the cables are recovered for repair as well.

  6. DJ

    Hello?

    The sixth century called and they want Yemen back (click....bzzzz...)

    Sorted!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    conflicting accounts

    The Yemeni ministry of telecommunications and IT in Sana'a (Houthi controlled) issued a press release in late December saying they weren't going after the cables in quite strong terms. So far the only source I've seen, including in the FP piece, saying anything about threats is MEMRI, an Israel-aligned think tank with a rather spotty record of selective emphasis and decontextualization. As for whodunnit, maybe Ansarallah changed their minds, things happen, but I'm extremely wary of imputing cable sabotage to the Houthis until there's an independent investigation or they announce they did it; they're happy to take credit for disrupting international physical trade after all! Instead, if autotranslate isn't doing me a grievous wrong, they're denying involvement.

    1. Effigy

      Re: conflicting accounts

      Thanks for digging. FP and MEMRI are far from objective sources, and they have no problem making evidence-free allegations to advance a narrative. It's not like Ansarallah (Houthis) to attack infrastructure in an indiscriminate way (though also not impossible). As you pointed out, they would take responsibility if they did it.

      Houthis shouldn't be mischaracterized as "rebels" since they're the de facto government for 80% of Yemen's population. The oft-repeated claim that they're "Iran-backed", while plausible, remains entirely unexamined by media outlets. I wish El Reg was more careful with this kind or reporting or avoided it entirely.

      1. Lurko

        Re: conflicting accounts

        "The oft-repeated claim that they're "Iran-backed", while plausible, remains entirely unexamined by media outlets. I wish El Reg was more careful with this kind or reporting or avoided it entirely."

        Given that there's a clear proxy war going on across much of the Middle East, with clear participants, I think it's pretty reasonable to make the conclusions.

        1. Zolko Silver badge

          Re: conflicting accounts

          The oft-repeated claim that they're "Iran-backed"

          the problem with this claim is not only that it's unproven, but that the same label is not used for other "forces" in play : when did you ever hear about "NATO backed Ukraine" ? Or "USA backed Israel" ? As for Iraq, is it USA-backed or Iran-backed now ?

          Such "Iran-backed" (or Russia-backed) narrative is only here to build hatred towards the target country by association : nothing concrete is said, but the repeated subtle propaganda settles in. The same could be seen with Julian Assange: he was depicted as an ars****le for years, even here, so there was no sympathy left for him once the extradition to the USA – which he fought against from the beginning – was announced. It's straight from the Nazi propaganda book: repeat a lie often enough and people will start believing it. I find it somehow uncomfortable that ElReg plays that game

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: conflicting accounts

            when did you ever hear about "NATO backed Ukraine" ? Or "USA backed Israel" ?

            Uh, pretty much all the time? And I don't pay that much attention to news media, frankly. But backing for Ukraine is in the news daily, with much fretting and analysis, and "USA-backed Israel" is more or less redundant in the US; it's essentially an axiom, and one that, again, is very much in the news.

            Such "Iran-backed" (or Russia-backed) narrative is only here to build hatred towards the target country by association : nothing concrete is said, but the repeated subtle propaganda settles in.

            Oh, look who's finished Rhetoric for Dummies. I had first-year composition students doing media-discourse analysis more sophisticated than that.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: conflicting accounts

        The oft-repeated claim that they're "Iran-backed", while plausible, remains entirely unexamined by media outlets

        Effigy,

        If the Houthis aren't Iran-backed - how are they ending up with loads of free Iranian weapons? They're using Iranian drones, Iranian ballistic missiles, and Iranian anti-ship cruise missiles. As well as the same drone/missile kits that Iran also ships to Hizbollah and Hamas.

        They've also had extensive training by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

        The reason that they're called Iran-backed is because they're backed by Iran.

  8. HandleBaz

    Shallow waters

    The strait in question has a max depth of some 300 meters, an average depth of 180 and the western channel has a depth of 30 meters.

    Depending on where exactly the cables are laid, you could feasably damage them with a rock and holding your breath.

    Never mind what can be done with explosives and a disposable, home made, drone.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Uh oh, the Houthis are in for it now. How long before an xkcd 705 style admin shows up?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MV Rubymar is dragging an anchor in the Bab-el-Mandeb

    Precise location is unknown, but last location (8 days ago) was adjacent to a bunch of cables, and it's drifted 37 miles since.

    See the map (with depths) at around 10 minutes in to the (excellent) video on the "What is Going on With Shipping?" channel on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTF4N_eFii0

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: MV Rubymar is dragging an anchor in the Bab-el-Mandeb

      That's a very interesting video - thanks for the tip! I've subscribed to the channel because the presenter seems knowledgeable and a good communicator.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: MV Rubymar is dragging an anchor in the Bab-el-Mandeb

        Yes, it's good stuff and he shows the sources for all his info.

        At the end of the video he comments that he didn't know which kind of fertilizer it was carrying, but Saudi Arabia (where the MV Rubymar was sailing from) makes about 4 million tons per year of Ammonia (obvious ingredient of Ammonium Nitrate) (https://www.statista.com/statistics/1266244/global-ammonia-production-by-country/).

        No one appears to have mentioned the consequences of 30 - 40,000 tons going off in the same general area as an American carrier group, I'm guessing you'd be in nuke/mini-nuke territory in terms of explosive yield.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: MV Rubymar is dragging an anchor in the Bab-el-Mandeb

          I'm guessing it would be at the bottom of the sea long before it got close.

  11. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Biden: “...then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”

    No doubt the Houthis can be blamed for the Nord Stream Gas explosions.

    1. Omnipresent Bronze badge

      Re: Biden: “...then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”

      The rebels are backed by iran, who are being helped by russia. Russia is sending BILLIONS and BILLIONS of barrels of oil to India illegally through the red sea, who are all too happy to buy it at a discount. Makes for a good distraction for the US as well.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Biden: “...then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”

      Those pipeline and cable between Estonia and Finland cut in the second first direct attack by Russia against the Western Infrastructure should be blamed on the Houthis too, not just these first and third first direct attacks.

    3. pomegranate

      Re: Biden: “...then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”

      That’s a strong accusation.

  12. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    I always wondered why all these islamic groups who are so passionate about protecting the palestinians and yet they never act to protect their fellow muslims in other countries.

    Where were the Houthis when Saddam was killing Iraqis and Iranians like flies ? Or how about the Taliban and their cruel and violent rule for 30 years in Afghanistan ?

    1. Casca Silver badge

      Or what china is doing to its muslim population

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Exactly the stupidity is amazing. Im not saying that Palestinian life is sunshine and icecream in Israel, but they get far better treatment than people in Iraq, or what Boko Harum or Isis.

        Israel has killed at most a few thosuand and many would argue they were legitimate, but ISIS of today in Africa and the past when they were in Western Asia killed hundreds of thousands. Why didnt any single Muslim country say ONE bad word about them ? None of them actually sent a single troop to fight ISIS.

  13. gandalfcn Silver badge

    " Rear Admiral John Gower, a former Royal Navy submarine commander, told the BBC earlier this month that it would take a more sophisticated force than the Houthis, someone with submersibles capable of locating the cables to do the deed. Someone like Iran.

    "I assess it's a bluff, unless it's an attack on a terminal," Gower said.

    "There is nothing I've seen in the Iranian [Order of Battle] that could touch these cables, certainly not their submarines," former Royal Navy Commander Tom Sharpe told the Beeb. While diving would be a possibility, Sharpe said he concurred with Gower that the threat was likely a bluff."

    The location of cables is clearly shown on charts, as all mariners know. Ship's regularly damage cables when they drag an anchor.

    Nd that pair ran RN ships?

  14. Reginald O.
    Pirate

    This is why...

    ...we still need B52s and really big bombs.

  15. Luiz Abdala
    Stop

    Guess what happens next?

    Who's gonna pay to not just lay new cables, but also bury them beyond anchor-scraping distance?

    Cost-benefit?

  16. ShortLegs

    "Rear Admiral John Gower, a former Royal Navy submarine commander, told the BBC earlier this month that it would take a more sophisticated force than the Houthis, someone with submersibles capable of locating the cables to do the deed"

    Do the Houthi's know they are not sophisticated enough to attack a submarine cable?

    To paraphrase Arthur C Clarke "when a distinguished expert declares something is impossible, its future is immediately assured"

    1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      The Rear Admiral was probably telling a porkie pie. It woudl be utterly stupid if someone with his qualifications and knowledge admitted on national television that these and other cables are easy targets.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let the experts in

    We won't know the truth until Sweden and Denmark thoroughly investigate the incident.

    1. -v(o.o)v-

      Re: Let the experts in

      Those investigations have already been stopped.

      I wonder why. Would have been a great victory for the western countries to point fingers at Russia. Hmm, weird? Could it have been that US did exactly what they repeatedly said they would do??

  18. gandalfcn Silver badge

    "Yemeni rebels thought to lack the ability to damage submarine cables" by clueless self appointed 'experts', aka numpties

  19. gandalfcn Silver badge

    "Yemeni rebels thought to lack the ability to damage submarine cables" by self appointed 'experts' who know precious little.

  20. gandalfcn Silver badge

    "Yemeni rebels thought to lack the ability to damage submarine cables" by self appointed 'experts' who obviously know very little.

    1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      Or those experts are telling lies hoping that people like the Huthis actually believe.

      You fail to appreciate that today and in the past, the illusion is more important than the reality.

      Look at Russia, the illusion they were a world power worked for 80 years, the truth is the west could have smashed them probably at any time. Even today Russian cant beat Ukraine, America could make dog shit of Russia if it had too. Look at the havoc American HIMARS are creating and theres barely a two dozen of them running around. I dont know how many the USA has, but it must be in the hundreds, with a 100, RUssia would done. Same goes for long range missiles, we all know who has missiles that can hit anything and we all know who is just launching as many as possible and hoping.

  21. tiggity Silver badge

    Tedious speculation

    It could be the Houthis.

    It could be an accident.

    It could be false flag ops from those wanted to make the Houthis look bad e.g. USA, UK, Israel

    It could be a different country wanting to stir up trouble for reasons of their own e.g. China, Russia etc.

    Without any firm evidence its all pointless speculation

  22. Bbuckley

    In fairness, what the Houthis need is a bit of the ol' shock n' awe. And if they are still full of Houthi hubris after that then a bit of the ol' atomic bomba should explain it to them.

  23. aelfheld

    Unserious militaries, serious consequences

    The military establishments of the West have long been more focused on fighting phantasms in their ranks than on fighting their nation's enemies.

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