Guarding Iraq’s Oil Platforms

Friday, March 02, 2007
A Ukrainian cargo ship that inadvertently sailed into protected waters around Iraqi oil platforms in the Persian Gulf ignited a rapid security crackdown Wednesday morning, displaying some of the measures coalition forces take to protect the platforms. Ships rushed to intercept the cargo vessel. A 14-sailor boarding team from the Royal Australian Navy frigate Toowoomba spent three hours searching the 100-meter cargo ship, ensuring the crew’s documents were accurate, and trying to figure out why the vessel didn’t heed warnings to stay out of the terminal’s protective circle. The Ukrainian crew told sailors they were unaware of the security restraints in that area. Wednesday’s incident is one of many scenarios coalition and Iraqi forces have encountered as they protect the two oil platforms about 60 miles from Iraq, said Navy Capt. Jeff Harbeson, commander of Destroyer Squadron 50 and the combined task group securing the platforms and training Iraqis to take over the duties.

The efforts have dramatically improved security in the nearly three years that a translator, Ali, has been working in the gulf.

The task is dubbed Maritime Security Operations, MSO for short, and entails quashing piracy, stopping the smuggling of people and weapons, protecting fishermen and protecting the platforms, which provide about 85 percent of Iraq’s revenue, at roughly $11,000 per second. Wednesday’s incident highlighted the tight working relationship among the coalition partners, said Jaimie Hatcher, commanding officer of the Toowoomba, an Anzac-class frigate named after an Australian city.

In Um Qasr, the British-run Naval Activity Transition Team trains Iraqi sailors on shore-based knowledge before they move south to the oil platforms and ships to learn the sea-based tactics, Harbeson said. U.S. naval sailors from Mobile Security Squadrons teach security measures to Iraqi marines.

Source: The Stars and Stripes

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