World first: Orange Marine’s cable ship becomes a Cape Horner

On 4 January, at around 9:00pm, the Orange Marine cable ship René Descartes sailed around Cape Horn at 56°00’ latitude south and 067°16’ longitude west. This makes it the only cable ship in the world that can claim the title of a true Cape Horner.  

The ship began by laying submarine cable on behalf of CTR, a Chilean operator, with the landing of the FOA (Fiber Optic Austral) at Port Williams. This Chilean village is the southernmost port in the world, located on the banks of the Beagle canal in the extreme south of the South American continent. The crew (of around 70) took advantage of the relatively temperate austral summer to begin this world first project. 

The 2,900km undersea cable link will massively improve connectivity to the population in this part of the world. Chilean public services such as education and health will become more efficient, improving digital inclusion throughout the country. This cable will also offer greater opportunities for the country’s economic development when it comes to tourism as well as agriculture and e-commerce.

The René Descartes set sail from Brest on 27 September, passing Gibraltar and through the Suez canal in order to pick up its undersea cable shipment from Hengtong (the largest manufacturer of terrestrial and submarine fibre optic cables) in Shanghai, from where it continued its journey early in November to arrive at Punta Arenas on 2 January after a stopover in Papeete, Tahiti.


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