Flying the Skies to Wire the Seas: Should the Subsea Cable Industry Stop Traveling?

by Nicole Starosielski, Iago Bojczuk, and Anne Pasek

For our third “Sustainable Subsea” column in SubTel Forum, we discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on travel across the subsea industry to explore the extent in which stakeholders will continue to rely on the new modalities of remote work. Should the industry continue to travel at pre-COVID levels? Or should we embrace the new normal, with all of its ecological and financial benefits? Or, will there be some intermediate compromise, which is accepted as effective and also efficient both from a business and environmental standpoint? To investigate these questions further, we interviewed leaders in the industry, surveyed research conducted on this topic, and tracked decisions being made at senior levels. In our many interviews, we found that the decision whether to travel or not is highly dependent on context. Although remote work is here to stay—with all of its green dividends—we were consistently reminded that there is also an intractable “in-person” aspect critical to the subsea cable industry. In short, the ability to conduct or not remote work depends on what stage of the process the project is at; the particular people in the room; and the degree to which people already know each other and the social fabric is in place. To help members of the industry to ensure more sustainable practices, we have developed the first calculator in the industry to measure carbon emission savings in transitioning to remote work.

Pages from Subtel Forum Magazine #124 - Global Capacity-2.png
Pages from Subtel Forum Magazine #124 - Global Capacity_Page_1.png
Screenshot of the article "Energy + Telecommunications: Bringing together two worlds at cable landing station".
Screenshot of second page with an image of a cable landing station upgrade model embedded.

Energy + Telecommunications: Bringing Together Two Worlds at the Cable Landing Station

by Nicole Starosielski and George N. Ramírez

In “Energy + Communications: Bringing together Two Worlds at the Cable Landing Station,” we discuss the ways cable landing stations can develop more sustainable practices. In particular, we highlight approaches to “greening” CLSs that focus on services that address an array of infrastructural, cultural, and geographic challenges. These include focusing on cooling, upgrading equipment, and repurposing hardware in order to make CLSs more sustainable. Through the concept of the circular economy, companies can reframe challenges as parameters rather than limitations for developing feasible and effective solutions. While many challenges arise across cultural and geographic contexts, establishing partnerships with customers and communities allows for creative, economical, and sustainable solutions with minimal impact to site resilience.

A Blue Industry Going Green

by Nicole Starosielski and Nick Silcox

Our first article in SubTel Forum's new “Sustainable Subsea” column, “A Blue Industry Going Green” highlights the sustainability initiatives of three subsea cable companies. We discuss how Orange Marine, a French subsea cable company with a marine fleet, has gone “above and beyond,” from installing and operating solar panels in their ship ports to developing sustainable ships to improve the efficiency of their fleet. NJFX, an American cable landing station based in New Jersey, recently chose to make their facility carbon neutral and took steps to improve the thermal management of their facility. Finally, at the Solomon Islands Submarine Cable Company, employee Andrew Siru led initiatives to conserve energy and water and developed a recycling program for their offices. Each of these companies faced unique challenges in moving toward sustainability in their specific geographic locations and business contexts. In response to those challenges, each company developed appropriate initiatives, and in doing so, helped to build a sustainable future for the cable industry.

The front cover of the magazine Submarine Telecoms Forum shows a man looking into the distance. Text says "Global Outlook".
Screenshot of the article "A Blue Industry Going Green".
Front page of the zine. It is comprised of designed letters that make up “the cost of convenience”.

Blue Solutions to Greening the Internet

by Anne Pasek and Hunter Vaughan

Featured in Minderoo Centre for Technology & Democracy's The Cost of Convenience on September 2021.