International mega super corp Google, is setting down some critical communication infrastructure in sleepy harbour town of Port Alberni, in British Columbia. Nestled at the end of the Alberni Inlet, in Barkley Sound, about half way up the west coast of Vancouver Island, on Canada’s west coast, Port Alberni and nearby Bamfield have a long and storied history with connecting Canada with the world via underwater communication cables. The area has long been a continental jumping point for subsea cables, and two new fiber optic cables will soon be sharing the area.
France based Orange Marine’s Cable Ship Rene Descartes is set to installed two cables from the town of Port Alberni, where I understand Google has bought a building in town, to house the shore terminal. From July 6, until Aug 04, 2021, the French flagged (sailing under France second registry – aka Flag of Convenience++) Rene Descartes will be working in Canadian waters under a Canada Coasting Trade Act waiver, laying cable from the continental shelf into Barkley Sound, to the shore station at Canal Beach in Port Alberni.
After a crew change in Victoria in August, the ship will then lay the remainder of 5,200 tons of fiber optic cable to Japan; Shima (Mie prefecture) to the South, and Takahagi (Ibaraki Prefecture) to the North. The beginning of a second cable will be laid, “…for future development will extend from Port Alberni and terminate at the headlands of Barkley Sound.”
Canadian (Montreal) based IT Telecom is assisting with the project known as Topaz. Google Canada is the client, and has probably chosen Canada as the “jumping off” point due to increased scrutiny from US regulators vis a vis telecommunication infrastructure with Asia. Google, amongst other “tech giants”, are seeking to control not only the world’s data, but also the infrastructure on which it relies. In this article, a breakdown of recent projects lays out a considerable investment in subsea fiber optic cabling, spanning the globe.
CS Rene Descartes, built in 2002 by Hanjin Heavy in South Korea, named after the famous European philosopher, is a 13,864 GT ship specifically designed for cable laying. The 144 meter long ship has a beam of 22 meter, a draught of 6.2 meters and calls Marseille, in southern France, its homeport. It carries onboard Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV), a plow to bury the cable, as well as all related fiber cable installation facilities onboard.
The ship is expected to sail into Victoria, from Japan, at the beginning of July; it will proceed to Barkley Sound to do the installation of the fiber optic cables shortly after. It will return to Victoria, after one month for a crew change, then head back to Barkley Sound, to pick up where it left off, and continue laying cable to Japan.