January 20, 2018

Early warning is key to offshore security


The African continent is believed to be home to eight percent of the world’s oil supply, seven percent of its gas reserves and nearly 16 percent of its shale gas. Countries with reserves that are currently being exploited or explored include Namibia, Nigeria, Mozambique, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Morocco.

The security costs associated with running an effective offshore oil business in Africa are immense. As the industry and related threats have evolved, and with many African resource fields within relatively easy reach of the coastline, security in these oil- and gas-rich regions has had to evolve beyond just protecting pipelines used in harvesting the resources. The protection of personnel on-board rigs and other associated vessels against security threats like piracy and kidnapping is vital in this volatile environment.

There are also many different types of security threats facing the oil industry – oil is not only stolen from pipelines, but from points at every stage of the drilling and transporting process and through the manipulation of meters and shipping documents. This means that the problem is one of organised crime, rather than one of opportunistic theft, and that it is systemic rather than isolated to particular locations.

Choosing a security system that offers early warning to prevent life threatening and costly situations is one effective way to keep control of spiralling costs. It also helps prevent the trauma, potential loss of life and property damage synonymous with breaches in physical security.

Adding more soldiers or security teams on patrol, or giving them more powerful weapons to protect themselves is not enough of a defence against piracy and kidnapping. By the time pirates board a vessel with the intention of stealing resources or kidnapping personnel to hold for ransom, it’s too late to prevent the attack, and the costs immediately soar beyond being controllable. Typically, these costs include lost production due to stoppages, insurance costs, repair and restoration costs after the event, but most importantly, the priceless cost of human life that should be avoided in all eventualities. The key to thwarting attacks is therefore early detection and prevention.

Installing a fully integrated communications and warning system on an offshore vessel significantly minimises all safety and security risks associated with being on an isolated, high-value property that is vulnerable to attack from myriad malevolent quarters.

Early detection systems like Saab’s R5 Supreme AIS Transponder System, for example, can detect vessels of all sizes from up to 30km away, giving crew sufficient time to identify any vessel approaching, and to call for assistance should they interpret an incoming vessel to be a threat. It also gives personnel on the rig enough time to evacuate to secure locations under lockdown, to minimise risk of kidnapping.

It’s also vital that personnel on board a vessel are aware of all events around them – with the consequences of equipment failure or fire on board being potentially tragic. A fully integrated warning system such as TactiCall include ways of monitoring equipment and communicating with personnel, igniting action immediately when required and avoiding damage to property and loss of life caused by un-noticed events on board.

There have been many developments in security around oil and gas fields in recent times, with companies like Saab customising existing globally-recognised security and defence solutions to respond directly to the needs of this sector. While each oil or gas drilling station belongs to a company rather than a country, the same principles of prevention, detection, and instant action that would be applied to the protection of a country should be applied to these properties.

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