The LNG tanker as a sitting target
The two political parties are currently squabbling about the safety reports regarding the presence of the LNG tanker in Marsaxlokk Bay. These reports do have their importance though the eventual results would of course depend on who has been commissioned to write them up as to provide adequate and credible conclusions in relation to the dangers such a monstrous ship permanently stationed in the harbour could present.
However, it is important to point out that such reports always are intended to deal with ‘possibilities’ and ‘probabilities’ such events such as big storms, fire and loose anchorage ever occurring. There is a distinct difference between what is ‘possible’ and what is ‘probable’ within the possibilities but whatever risk factors are assessed as to be reasonably credible, there is no way anyone can ever claim that both the ‘probability’ and the ‘possibility ‘ of a mega storm or a fire on board happening could ever be reduced to zero.
So an element of risk, whatever anyone says, under whatever report is published, is always there though within established safeguards as much as it is physically possible.
However, both the government and the Opposition seem to be, either deliberately or through oversight, not taking into consideration the realities of the present international political climate where terrorism is the order of the day and the resulting risks.
Terrorism in today’s advance electronics does not require anyone to travel anywhere for training. It is being spawned over the Net by the ISIS group through the indoctrination of Islamic sympathizers over the internet from faraway cells in Syria or possibly in Central Europe. It targets young people in the 18 to 23 age group with more receptive minds, as we have recently seen in Paris, Belgium and Australia. It provides simple but effective tools of destruction without using dynamite, the classic example being of the car filled with four large LPG household gas cylinders placed in central Paris complete with a few jerry cans of petrol. All that was needed was for the two young Islamic-minded terrorists involved to put a match to the whole thing and… bang. Hundreds killed or wounded. Simple, mind-boggling, but effective.
Coming to our LNG Tanker, nicely anchored in our beautiful bay of Marsaxlokk and fully loaded with highly explosive gases at all times 24/7, 365 days, this tanker presents a veritable sitting target for any Islamic terrorist or any other person with a disturbed, twisted mind. The methodology used to blow it up or use it as a ransom chip is in fact so simple that it is veritably frightening to think about. It does not need any Special Forces or Navy Seals training. All it will need is some information on the NET from a potential ISIS ‘handler’, an apartment with a sea view in Marsaxlokk, a cup of coffee in one hand and a few minutes for establishing the right time and date. It will not involve any special equipment. Maybe €1000 would be more than enough.
The whole concept is so simple that it is not appropriate to put it to the public in any form less one gets some ideas where at the moment none exist.
Besides, there is absolutely no possibility that the perpetrator would ever be found let alone caught since it is easily a oneman job and the whole operation is so simple in its format that hardly any trace or forensic leads need to be left around.
One might argue that the same would apply if the LNG tanker were to come at intervals to download LNG gas onto land storage tanks. This is not correct. A visiting LNG tanker would not stay in harbour for more than 48 hours maximum and would not return before two or three+ months. Such short visits provide a more difficult scenario in terms of planning and logistics, and of possible heightened security prevailing. The permanently anchored LNG tanker does not present any such problems.
One could also say that if there is such a simple methodology for attacking this LNG tanker it might as well be used on visiting oil tankers or cruise liner ships using LNG gas for fuel.
Again, this is not correct since crude oil does not catch fire easily. It needs certain types and quantities of explosive to provide the ignition. Cruise Liners running on LNG gas, as claimed by the Prime Minister, are also free from such attacks since their storage tanks are well inside and below deck.
If such a threatening explosive situation ever occurs in relation to the LNG tanker in the harbour of Marsaxlokk, it will bring the Maltese government literally to its knees as nobody will be able to ‘dare’ not satisfy whatever ransom is demanded, which in most probability will involve also the US government, not to mention France, Belgium or whoever is most on the wrong side of the ISIS hierarchy.
There was a time when nobody ever thought that an Egyptian Airline would ever land in Malta with terrorists on board. However, it did happen and it did explode with a number of casualties, which though limited still sent a shiver through our island at that time.
This time, an explosion on board such a monster of a ship fully loaded with highly explosive gases will most probably eliminate Malta from the map of the world or send whatever remains back to prehistory.
These are not scaremongering words, nor are they politically motivated. They recognise the stark reality for what it is.
In short, I think the Prime Minister should forget about ‘the studies’ and ponder on the realities of life. Not as we wish them to be but as in fact they are. That ship, to put it simply, should never be berthed permanently in Marsaxlokk harbour.
Frank Camilleri Attard