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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Terrorist sub threat to offshore oil rigs?

Neal Adams, previously noted here for his comments on oil rig security in general, made another headline in the UK's Sunday Mail Submarine Terror Fear for North Sea Oil Rigs, suggesting the possiblity of terrorist minisubs (and other means) in attacking offshore oil platforms (the article dates from August 2003, so take it as such).
Yesterday, Adams said an air, sea or underwater attack was not far-fetched, adding: "The US is concerned about the use of relatively cheap one-man submarines by drug runners to avoid detection by normal radar. These could be used by terrorists."

He said: "The oil industry has a high turnover of staff so, potentially, a terrorist could sign up and go out for manual labour.

"Platforms have many types of explosive mixtures on them and rigs aren't built with security in mind, so prevention must begin at the loading docks."

Houston-based Adams added: "North Sea facilities are huge and produce a great deal of oil.

"As targets, they would cause a lot of potential damage and pollution. The simplest way would be to take control of an offshore vessel and ram a platform."
Australia has devoted some funding for the development of some protection for its offshore rigs as set out here
The new funding is an extra $139.3million over four years to protect offshore oil and gas platforms in the North West Shelf - assets that are poorly protected and have long been feared to be vulnerable to terrorist attack.

"Funding has been provided for the purchase of two additional patrol boats and trials of unmanned aerial vehicles for the North West Shelf security project," Defence Minister Robert Hill said. "This will enable the navy to provide dedicated surveillance and monitoring of the North West Shelf."
And this company has some ideas to help personnel control. Update: And this company will help develop a plan.

How big can the problem get? Wriiten here
A third of Nigeria's average production of 2.1 million barrels a day was either shut down by rebel violence or stolen last year. Heavily-armed gangsters continue to steal oil at a rate of about 100,000 barrels a day.

A report done for Royal Dutch/Shell Group, which produces half of Nigeria's oil, found more than 1,000 deaths a year from crime and political violence in the Niger Delta, putting the region on a par with Chechnya and Colombia.
Of course, as I posted earlier, Nigeria is attempting to crack down on these criminals with the recent arrest of "112 illegal bunkerers and pirates."

The US military, along with the Iraqis, have been taking steps to protect Iraq's offshore oil platforms as reported here
The oil wealth that Iraq is counting on as its best hope for a stable future flows through rattling pipelines to lonely, rusting depots 15 miles offshore, so isolated that an armada of American, British and Australian warships is circling them to prevent the threat of waterborne suicide attackers.

Even little fishing dhows that ply the waters of the Persian Gulf have been guarded against, since attackers in three boats sped toward Khor al Amaya and its larger sister terminal, Al Basra, and blew themselves up on April 24.

The vulnerable site is crucial to Iraq's economic future, and an attack could be catastrophic to the environment as well as the Iraqi oil industry, American military and industry officials say.

"Every day I tell them — I say, look, guys, in the grand scheme of things there may be no other place where our armed forces are deployed that has a greater strategic importance," said Capt. Kurt Tidd, commander of the Fifth Fleet task force that is protecting the terminals, as he bounced over the waves on a small rigid-hulled inflatable boat toward the Khor terminal's platform.(NYTimes, James Glanz 7/04)
See also here and here.

Caption: 050127-N-0401E-002 Persian Gulf (Jan. 27, 2005) - A Sailor assigned to Mobile Security Force Detachment Two Two (MSD-22) stands watch aboard Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT). MSD-22 is providing security for Iraq’s oil terminals as part of a joint effort between United States and coalition forces to provide security against terrorist attacks to Iraq’s oil platforms. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Wes Eplen (RELEASED)

Also of interest is this article from the US Naval Institute magazine Proceedings(via Military.com), "Naval Forces in the War on Terror" By Rear Admiral James Stavridis and Captain Frank Pandolfe, U.S. Navy
(August 2004).

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