Brussels is to study the consequences of a terrorist attack on a tanker carrying liquefied natural gas, oil or chemicals.
The European Commission’s mobility and transport directorate has called for tender documents on the study — the latest in a series of maritime security reports — to be submitted by August 15.
The purpose of the research is to analyse the “vulnerability of LNG, oil and chemical tankers with respect to terrorist attacks”, evaluate the consequences and to make proposals for appropriate measures of protection.
A source within the directorate stressed there was no perceived heightened security threat to tankers, and the study was “purely a matter of procedure”.
In its tender document for the year-long study, the commission states: “The European Union is largely depending on energy imports. Alongside with oil tankers, gas tankers transporting LNG/LPG will become crucial for ensuring the energy supply and both the number of tankers and the number of LNG/LPG port facilities will substantially increase.
“Furthermore, the EU is also a major trade partner regarding chemicals, refinery products, fertiliser and gasoline, a significant part of which is transported by ship.”
With their inflammable, explosive and/or toxic products, these tankers may be a primary target for terrorist attacks, the document says.
“Typical scenarios include a suicide attack via speedboat such as in the case of the tanker Limburg, firing at or missile attacks from the shore or hijacking with the purpose to use the ship to damage port infrastructure and/or adjacent neighbourhoods.”
Limburg was a Euronav VLCC rammed by an explosives-laden speedboat off Yemen in 2002, killing one seafarer. The same tactic was used against the warship USS Cole, also in Yemen, in 2000.
The study will look at several types of incident, and the “probability of success” of Cole-type attacks by small boats using 250 kg-500 kg of “C4 or comparable explosives” detonated adjacent to the ship, above, at or below the ship’s waterline.
Other means of delivering an explosive to be studied include “man pads and other weaponry”, improvised explosive devices and trucks parked quayside.
The call for tenders makes the point that, contrary to other types of ship, the consequences of terrorist attacks are not limited to the ship itself: “One of the greatest concerns is the potential for the deliberate release of toxic gases and the ignition of massive vapour clouds.
“There is no doubt regarding the seriousness of these consequences, but in the lack of facts the threat perceived by the public may go beyond the real one with the appropriate consequence on acceptance of oil, chemical, fertiliser, refinery products and gas transport and appropriate facilities.”