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Efforts on to protect oil installations from marine jihadis

Posted by Manish Agrawal on Friday, 5 December, 2008

With the threat from marine jihadis now a stark reality, the security of oil and gas installations, many of which dot the coastline,have become a key concern for the petroleum ministry. 
The concerns – which stem from the high value of investment in the oil sector and its being very critical to the economy – were shared by petroleum minister Murli Deora with home minister P Chidambaram when he called on the latter on Wednesday. Mr Deora is said to have used the interaction to flag possible threats to oil and gas installations, both ofPSUs and key private sector concerns like Reliance’s Jamnagar refinery.

The vulnerability of the coast was there for all to see when the 10 Mumbai attackers managed to sail all the way from Karachi with a huge quantity of arms, ammunition and explosives that helped them lay siege to prime addresses in Mumbai for over 60 hours. 

The oil ministry is said to be concerned that the same modus operandi may be used by terrorists to strike at the country’s economic health by targeting oil and gas production facilities in western offshore, particularly oil wells which are mostly unmanned. 

Western offshore is home to the nation’s biggest producing oil and gas fields with some 180 oil installations. Besides, Mumbai High oil field and Bassein gas field, it is also home to Panna/Mukta and Tapti oil and gas field and its waters are used to ferry 70% of the crude oil India imports through ships and the entire LNG shipments into the country. 

Coastal oil facilities have always been high on the list of vital installations exposed to terror threats. The Union home ministry has been holding regular meetings with the brass of oil PSUs like ONGC, HPCL, BPCL, IOC and GAIL to sensitise them of the terror threats and counsel them on the security measures needed. 

The MHA had earlier sought a security “audit” of all major private-sector oil concerns to ensure that they are insulated from possible jihadi attacks. The PSU heads were told in no uncertain terms to strictly follow the security blueprint prepared by the intelligence experts to prevent and minimise damage from possible terror attacks. 

As per the procedure, the security of all hyper-sensitive installations is constantly reviewed besides undergoing a major revamp every two years. The anti-terror security drill for oil installations laid down by intelligence agencies takes care of aspects like perimeter security, access control as well as regular vetting of staff. 

To be more specific, an oil establishment must have a perimeter wall with of a certain height along with a barbed wire and have multiple check-points ahead of its main entrance. This would prevent terrorists from gaining easy access. 

Besides, even if terrorists do manage to get through the first security check, the presence of at least two more barriers on the way to the oil plant would help security forces neutralise them much before they can reach the work area, thus minimising damage. A perimeter wall, besides an inner cordon and outer cordon, would minimise damage in the event of terrorists ramming an explosives-laden vehicle to get inside the oil plant. 

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