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Terror threat to global shipping, who’s to benefit most?

Nov. 23, 2015 at 16:18 by Mikhail Voytenko in Maritime Security

terror threat

With growing number of terror attacks claimed by ISIS, grows my bewilderment in attempts to understand, what’s the meaning of those attacks, what the ISIS is going to achieve. They say fundamentalists are trying to horrify and destabilize their main enemy, western countries. But as we can see, the result is directly opposite, and society is consolidating in the wake of attacks. They say ISIS is trying to create an Islamic State and to populate it with its’ henchmen coming from all the world. But terror attacks are resulting again, in something absolute opposite, more and more countries are vowing to revenge the attacks, and join anti-ISIS coalition.

In good old times of good old terrorism, terrorists were at least making understandable demands, like freeing their convicted minions, or freeing ever suffering Palestinian people. Nowadays they don’t demand anything at all. Terrorists say Allah Akbar, shoot around or blow themselves up, and after that, ISIS claims it was its’ job. And that’s all. Something is definitely smelly in here, if you ask me.

They say ISIS is trying to rattle global economy, in order to wreak havoc on international community. Now, that’s interesting.
British anti-terrorism group Quilliam intercepted a document from the Islamic State detailing the group’s plan to wreak “pandemonium” in Europe from the Libyan coast targeting commercial shipping. If the document is not just propaganda, it presents the biggest threat of disruption to Mediterranean shipping since WWII, writes Charlie Bartlett in Seatrade Maritime. Dryad Maritime chief operating officer Ian Millen stresses that while shipping must be prepared for this eventuality, a healthy skepticism should be maintained.
I’d add, that there is not much meaning in attacks on Med shipping, anyway, if we’re talking about rattling global economy.
What’s more, one successful attack, even of catastrophic proportions, won’t affect global economy. At all. Only a chain of catastrophic disasters caused by terror attacks may disturb global economy. Better still, if such attacks are strategically positioned and aimed, say, at blocking most important seaways like Suez or Strait of Hormuz. But again, blocking Suez won’t succeed in disrupting global shipping and economy. With the existing tonnage and shipbuilding overcapacity, nearly all shipping sectors will consider Suez closure as the best Christmas present they ever received. Strait of Hormuz is much more interesting and promising target, from the point of view of those, who’re aiming at global economy.

Is it possible to disrupt Strait of Hormuz transits? Theoretically it’s possible, the goal in itself is technically achievable, practically no, it’s impossible. In order to disrupt Strait of Hormuz transits, terrorists will have to plot and carry out a chain of attacks, so that at least one of each 10 tankers loaded with crude oil, will be destroyed or severely damaged, by explosions and fire. Blasting supertanker in full load is not an easy task, definitely not for amateurs with makeshift bombs, it requires specific substantial resources and skills. And we’re speaking about a chain of such attacks.

If musing about ISIS potential to launch such attacks, the answer will be absolute no. It’s a task for a State, and not any State, with that. Not for Iran, for example. It requires special forces, like SEALS, with all related paraphernalia, logistics and secrecy. There’s a handful of States which have frogmen teams capable of preparing and launching series of attacks on mammoth crude oil tankers either moored at a loading point or under way, in a given area. ISIS from what we know, is by now nothing more than a bunch of paramilitary formations, capable of maintaining a guerilla war. It’s a far cry from elite military required for such tasks.

Naturally, one can’t but wonder, if there is a party most interested in a large-scale series of maritime disasters, involving tankers? Well, there’s only one party, one State, to benefit from such attacks, it’s Russia. Syrian military campaign was launched by Russia mostly with the aim of destabilizing the region to an extent, when it will influence oil prices, pushing them up. 70% of Russian budget are oil and gas money, country’s economy is simply crashing down, under the press of falling oil price and absolutely crazy, militarized budget.

I doubt very much, that Russia will be reckless enough to try something like this, disguising attacks as ISIS terror war. But Kremlin is desperate, Mr. Putin and his minions put themselves into a dead end by their policy to maintain power and regime, which is by now more disgusting in many aspects, than Nazy or Stalin regimes. So who knows? There are absolutely no scruples to stop Kremlin, Kremlin doesn’t know what word “scruples” means, when it comes down to Kremlin’s survival. Kremlin now (and most part of Russian population) is an epitome of immorality.
So, if there will be any such an accident, not in Mediterranean, mind you, but in Persian Gulf, in Inidan ocean or in Red sea, Russia is to be a main suspect.

As for terror threat in Med, Dryad Maritime made it short and I believe, quite correct:
“Lessons learned in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean and the fact that European/NATO naval forces routinely operate together would mean that tasking a multi-national force with the protection of shipping would be relatively simple”…
There is one point, though. One aspect which still leaves Med shipping vulnerable to attacks. Isn’t it time to eliminate risks to merchant vessels, especially tankers, which are obliged to take part in migrants rescue, by leaving them out of this mess? It’s already a fact, that quite a number of terrorists leaked into Europe together with migrants, so the chance of some of them delivering an attack on a tanker is quite high.
As for recently voiced fears of attacks on English Canal ferries, it’s possible of course, in the same way any attack on any object with many potential victims and/or catastrophic consequences, is possible now.

Voytenko Mikhail
Nov 23 2015

Terror threat to global shipping, who’s to benefit most?

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