The Somali government has detained the container feeder MSC Alice on charges that her anchor cut the undersea fiber-optic cables that carry the nation’s internet traffic. Somalia has had no terrestrial internet connection to the rest of the world for the past three weeks, and the government is seeking compensation for damages. MSC said in a statement that it is investigating the incident.
Users with more financial resources can still access satellite internet, at least in Mogadishu, but most of the nation’s rural areas are cut off altogether. Somali attorney general Ahmed Ali Dahir claims that the outage is causing losses of $10 million every day.
Among other effects, the outage has effectively cut off international wire transfers, according to a spokesman at the International Bank of Somalia. The Somali economy relies heavily upon remittances from expatriates who earn money abroad and send it back to their families.
In addition, the outage is reportedly affecting NGO relief efforts in rural areas. Somalia is in the midst of a severe drought, and the resulting famine has killed thousands of people. Quartz reports that local relief organizations do not have access to satellite internet, and their activities have suffered from the disruption, as they rely upon the lower-cost terrestrial connection to solicit donations and coordinate their efforts.
A cable layer from Oman has recently arrived to begin repair work. Officials hope that internet service will be restored soon, but they have not announced a firm timeline.
The Fredriksen-owned MSC Alice, exname SFL Europa, was chartered by Hanjin Shipping until the carrier’s dramatic collapse last year. She only recently left detention in Chittagong, Bangladesh, where she had been held pending the outcome of a case filed by the port authority over unpaid fees. She is operating under a five-year bareboat charter to MSC.