CRS Holland: Reducing The Congestion Of Submarine Cables By Mining The Sea

CRS Holland has made a successful business for cleaning our oceans by collecting used, deep sea, communication cables and recycling their valuable materials

case study

The Challenge

95% of all “wireless” communication data goes through deep sea cables. This 150-year-old technology has accumulated approximately 3.6 million kilometres of telecommunication cables, whereby close to 60.000 kilometres of cables are still being produced and installed each year. Although no longer in use, old cables remain on the seabed as there is has been no value for telecom companies in retrieve them until now.

An estimated 30.000 km of cable have been recovered from sea beds to date but 94.4% of unused cables are still lying on the ocean floor. With the addition of new cables each year, the cable routes are becoming more and more congested.  This material wastefulness represents a potential value of several billion U.S. dollars in metals and plastics.

The Approach

The 3 main uses for decommissioned cables are:

  • Refurbish – improving the quality and data capacity of used cables
  • Relocated and Reuse – move functioning cables to areas that need them resulting in a cheaper option than installing new cable systems
  • Recover – the cable, valuable metals and plastics can be recycled and removal of old cables can clear up cable-routes for potential new cables

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The case for recovery of deep sea cables is an interesting solution for the current congestion issues cable-routes face, both from a financial, legal, environmental and practical point of view.

During recovery CRS Holland encounters congestion on many the cable routes. Intersecting and parallel cables, within safety margins, is something they see more and more of. This tangled web of cables can cause operation challenges not only during recovery but also when ‘live’ cables need repairs or maintenance.  With the movements at the Paris Climate Convention and discussions surrounding future regulations, there is hope the industry will not employ more cables unless they have first recovered its decommissioned systems.

“Hundreds of thousand kilometres of decommissioned cable are on the sea bed floor. CRS Holland is proud to be able to create a circular business case for these materials by partners with cable owners to clean up the ocean floor.”

Key Learnings

Due to the increasing scarcity for recycled materials there is a growing demand for metals and plastics, making the business case for the recovery and recycling of deep sea, communication cables even more relevant. However, the benefits of selling back recovered cable components are currently higher than the costs of recovery and recycle process. The industry must continue to be educated regarding the benefits of recovering decommissioned cable systems.

What’s Next?

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CRS Holland’s’ cable recovery service have prevented the emission of 54.000 tons of CO2, the equivalent of taking 13.500 cars off the road annually. They are responsible for recovering 60% of the total 30.000 kilometres of cable that has been brought up from sea beds in the Atlantic and Pacific to date. What the industry needs now is for telecom companies to take a greater role in cable recovery and use their influence in the industry to champion proper cable recovery practices.


As a part of our member community, CRS Holland shares in our ambition to make the circular economy a reality.
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