France Telecom-Orange cable repair ship in a fire incident off Namibia coast

France Telecom-Orange has suffered a major incident on its cable-ship, the Chamarel after a fire broke out on the ship late afternoon on 8 August while returning from a repair operation on the Sat3-Safe cable off the coast of Namibia in the Atlantic Ocean.

One of France Telecom-Orange’s repair ships.

According to a media release sent out from the firm’s head offices in Paris, France, the decision was made to abandon the ship at around 8 pm local time in spite of the crew’s efforts to control the fire while all 56 crew members were safely recovered by a Namibian fishing vessel without injury or incident. The crew is currently located at the Namibian port, Walvis Bay and will be repatriated in the coming days.

France Telecom said that  the cause of the fire has not yet been established and a full investigation will be launched as soon as the vessel has been recovered, adding that the Group will work with the Namibian authorities to ensure minimum environmental impact during the recovery operation.

“This is a very serious incident, and I would like to express my sincere thanks to the crew members for their courage in managing the situation. The safety of our crew is our primary concern and we will look closely at the results of the investigation. I am also grateful for the support provided by the Namibian authorities,” Thierry Bonhomme, France Telecom’s senior executive VP in charge of Networks and Carriers and R&D said in the media release.

The incident has had no immediate impact on submarine cables in the area, which will continue to function normally. France Telecom has also announced that it will take all appropriate measures to manage maintenance operations that had been scheduled for the coming days.

France Telecom-Orange operates six cable ships and is one of the leading players in the industry. Four vessels are dedicated to maintenance services in the Mediterranean basin, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean while two other vessels are specialized in laying new telecommunications submarine systems worldwide. These are the René Descartes, the flagship of the Group’s subsidiary FT Marine, and the Teliri, which is operated by the subsidiary Elettra.

France Telecom-Orange’s submarine cable activity plays an important role in the Group’s overall ambitions to improve network accessibility across the world and to meet customer expectations for improved quality of service across its global network.

France Telecom-Orange  is one of the world’s leading telecommunications operators with sales of 45.3 billion euros for 2011 and has 170,000 employees worldwide at 30 June 2012, including 105,000 employees in France. Present in 33 countries, the Group has a total customer base of 224 million customers at 30 June 2012, including 166 million mobile customers and 15 million broadband internet (ADSL, fibre) customers worldwide. Orange is one of the main European operators for mobile and broadband internet services and, under the brand Orange Business Services, is one of the world leaders in providing telecommunication services to multinational companies.

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