Challenge of the Western Channel

I’m just back from Guam, where, on Star Wars Day, the President of Republic of Palau, President of FSM and other dignitaries witnessed the signing of the Interconnection Agreements with Globe Telecom of Philippines (in the case of BSCC) and Telin, the international arm of PT Telkom of Indonesia (for FSM), each for five 100 Gbit / sec wavelengths from our branching units to Guam via the main trunk of the transpacific cable linking Indonesia with the USA via Philippines, Guam and Hawaii. It was a very impressive event, with the addresses of His Excellency President Peter Christian (FSM),  His Excellency President Tommy Remengesau, Jr (Palau), Mr Ernest Cu (Globe Telecom), and Mr Toru Kawauchi (NEC) remarkably open, supportive and perceptive. This is not necessarily the norm at this kind of formal event. BSCC Director KB (Keobel Sakuma) did a great job as Master of Ceremonies. The Office of the President of Palau organised the event, which was a credit to everyone involved. There were quite a few press representatives there, so it should be widely reported.

Here is the signing ceremony in Guam, with Globe Telecom CEO Ernest Cu and BSCC Chairman George Rechucher signing the Palau interconnection agreement, witnessed by His Excellency President Tommy Remenesgau, Jr standing behind Ernest:

While we were in Guam, BSCC Chairman George Rechucher, Treasurer Eric Whipps, PMU’s Richard Misech, PMU Marine cable engineer Martin Blakely and I attended a Cable Coordination Meeting with NEC, we met with a range of potential suppliers of specialist telecommunications services that we will need to deliver robust capacity to our customers, and also with ADB for an update report. It has been a pretty hectic week!

The Cable Coordination Meeting is detailed, with a review of outstanding action items, and a line by line examination of the project plan, with a particular focus on identifying risks and agreeing necessary actions related to the milestones in the next couple of months. The NEC main supply contract delivers the terminal equipment that will be installed in Cable Landing Stations (CLS) in Palau and Guam, and the cable and repeaters to connect to the trunk. NEC are also the main supply contractors for the FSM cable, and Palau and FSM will be using the same cable ship to lay our spurs.

Palau is a bit different to FSM, in that the western channel we will be using to access our CLS at Ngeremlengui is too narrow for the 130 metre cable ship that will be laying the spurs. While it is not quite as long as Etihad Stadium, where St Kilda played Greater Western Sydney tonight, it is a large vessel. In late February we agreed a solution to this problem with NEC. NEC will use a smaller vessel, the Strider, to install a Pre-Laid Shore End which will extend from the CLS out through the channel and beyond the reef. That Pre-laid cable will later be picked up and jointed to the main cable lay by KDDI of Japan’s specialist cable ship, the Pacific Link, for completion of the spur.

At the Guam CCM we agreed that the target is to have the Strider in Palau waters for the Pre-Laid Shore End in the first few days in June. That is less than a month from now! Loading of the PLSE will be supervised by PMU’s Japanese cable engineer, and our marine specialist, Martin Blakely, will be on board the Strider to ensure top quality laying operations. This is a key role in submarine cable network construction, since decisions will be made on board a cable ship during laying operations. Martin is BSCC’s Purchaser Representative, a formal part of the decision making process to ensure our best interests are protected. Martin will also be on board the Pacific Link when it is operating, that is, laying cable. Needless to say, Martin has done this a few times before. We will also have a highly skilled shore team on hand.

During May we need to complete installation of the Cable Landing Station module, the beach manhole, the bulkhead and the standby power at CAP-N, BSCC’s Ngeremlengui landing site. The CLS arrives Monday 8th May, and there will be Flexenclosure and PMU engineers in Palau to complete the installation.

So far, we remain on track for our target Ready for Service (RFS) date in December 2017.

I’ll sign off, it’s late and I want to see what happened in the St Kilda v GWS game. Once the cable is connected, I’m hoping to be able to watch the footy live, right here in Palau! Of course, by December the AFL season is long over, but the AFLW (the women) will be on again early in 2018, and it might well be available on the web. Check it out, the AFLW women will be embarking on their second season of a national professional league, playing the toughest football code on Planet Earth. The first season, with Adelaide Crows triumphing over Brisbane Lions in the Grand Final, was broadcast live in Australia, and attracted enormous interest and support. My AFL club, Essendon, doesn’t have a team in the AFLW yet, but I’m hoping we will soon. There were only eight teams in the first season, so more than half the 18 AFL clubs are now jockeying to field teams in future seasons. Lots of girls are playing, and the talent pool for the national draft is growing fast.

I will blog when things happen, but I will make sure it is at least monthly, so everyone interested can have a fair idea of where we are. We have an email address,, where you can get in touch. If good questions come up, I will answer them here, without any identification of the questioner or questioners.

Happy Trails

Robin Russell