The LNG tanker as a sit­ting tar­get

Malta Independent - - LETTERS -

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

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