Friday, January 18, 2008

Port Security: Protecting Tankers

Good summary of the publicly released version of a recent GAO report covering port protection of tankers (oil, LPG and LNG) from MarineLog:
U. S. energy needs rest heavily on ship-based imports. Tankers bring 55 percent of the nation's crude oil supply, as well as liquefied gases and refined products like jet fuel. This supply chain is potentially vulnerable in many places here and abroad, as borne out by several successful overseas attacks on ships and facilities.

GAO's review addressed (1) the types of threats to tankers and the potential consequences of a successful attack, (2) measures taken to protect tankers and challenges federal agencies face in making these actions effective, and (3) plans in place for responding to a successful attack and potential challenges stakeholders face in responding.

GAO's review spanned several foreign and domestic ports, and multiple steps to analyze data and gather opinions from agencies and stakeholders.

The supply chain faces three main types of threats--suicide attacks such as explosive-laden boats, "standoff" attacks with weapons launched from a distance, and armed assaults.

Highly combustible commodities such as liquefied gases have the potential to catch fire or, in a more unlikely scenario, explode, posing a threat to public safety. Attacks could also have environmental consequences, and attacks that disrupt the supply chain could have a severe economic impact.
Domestically, units of the Coast Guard, the lead federal agency for maritime security, report insufficient resources to meet its own self imposed security standards, such as escorting ships carrying liquefied natural gas.

Some units' workloads are likely to grow as new liquefied natural gas facilities are added. Coast Guard headquarters has not developed plans for shifting resources among units.

Multiple attack response plans are in place to address an attack, but stakeholders face three main challenges in making them work.

First, plans for responding to a spill and to a terrorist threat are generally separate from each other, and ports have rarely exercised these plans simultaneously to see if they work effectively together.

Second, ports generally lack plans for dealing with economic issues, such as prioritizing the movement of vessels after a port reopens. The President's maritime security strategy calls for such plans.

Third, some ports report difficulty in securing response resources to carry out planned actions.

Federal port security grants have generally been directed at preventing attacks, not responding to them, but a more comprehensive risk-based approach is being developed.
GAO report (pdf format) here. Same report covered in a more hysterical manner ("Doomed, doomed, I say")-and with a large factual error- here, covering particular concerns over a planned LNG facility:
The report is likely to raise more questions about a proposed $800-million LNG terminal in the Port of Long Beach, which Sound Energy Solutions, a Mitsubishi/ConocoPhillips subsidiary, wants to build on 25 acres of Pier T.

The proposal was shelved by port officials in early 2007 following a wave of protest from community groups and elected leaders concerned the facility would be a magnet for terrorists.

LNG, if released into the air and ignited at a very precise air-gas mixture, is capable of exploding, although the risk of such an incident is minute.
Contrary to the article, LNG will not explode (unless, I suppose, you manage to heat the entirety of an LNG tank on a ship while also stopping any overpressure vents), it may burn, but it will not explode. See here. But see for yourself, FERC reports: (1)ABS report (pdf):
Although LNG vapors can explode (i.e., create large overpressures) if ignited within a confined space, such as a building or structure, there is no evidence suggesting that LNG is explosive when ignited in unconfined open areas. Experiments to determine whether unconfined methane-air mixtures will explode have been conducted and, to date, have been negative.
; (2) Sandia Lab report (pdf) here.

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