There is a 3km zone around the oil platforms that the fishing dhows and other craft are not allowed to enter. It has been described as "a ring of steel" and there are sailors constantly scanning radar screens and looking from the bridge with binoculars to ensure it is not breached. What the navies want to prevent is a dhow laden with explosives sailing up to the platforms and detonating itself.
There can be little doubt that the threat to the oil platforms, Al Basra Oil Terminal, or ABOT as it is usually referred to, and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal or KAAOT is real.
Two years ago, three suspicious dhows sailing near the platforms were intercepted by US forces. The suicide attackers set off their explosives prematurely, killing three sailors.
A senior US military commander has said it is essential that coalition forces "stick it out" in Iraq.
Captain Chris Noble predicted the security situation in the insurgency-rattled nation would deteriorate significantly if there was a pull-out.
The 51-year-old - in charge of a major task group of ships operating in the Northern Arabian Gulf - said the coalition forces were "committed for the long haul".
"Just because it's long, that doesn't mean it's wrong. There was hope things would go faster, but people understand why they have not gone faster.
"If we leave, things will get very bad very quickly. There is a fundamental, underlying hope that we will stay and I really believe this is the right thing to do," he said.
Noble said the speed at which day-to-day life improved in Iraq was down to the new administration in Iraq.
"It is dependent upon the investment by the Iraqi government. It will be a measure of their commitment and resources. It really very much is in their hands," he said.
Friday, June 23, 2006
A "ring of steel" reported here: