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March 23, 2005

Let's not forget the Navy...

The boys who sail the briny, even though they aren't in the news that much right now, are fighting to maintain their share of the budget - with good reason. And while I have little visibility on the subject, I suspect there is tension in the ranks over the structure and organization of the Navy in the future.

CDR Salamander points out one aspect of the debate: Riverine Ops and Operators.

Eaglespeak points out another - Piracy and the potential links to terror.

Think it's not likely or too dangerous? Consider the article in the Flash Traffic/Extended Entry.

Foreign Policy Research Institute
50 Years of Ideas in Service to Our Nation
1955-2005
www.fpri.org

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PLANNING A SEA-BORNE TERRORIST ATTACK
by Lawrence A. Husick and Stephen Gale

March 21, 2005

Lawrence Husick is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy
Research Institute's Center on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism,
and Homeland Security. Stephen Gale, Ph.D., is co-chair of
FPRI's Center on Terrorism. The research conducted by
FPRI's Center on Terrorism is supported in part by a grant
from the Department of Economic and Community Development,
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The views expressed in this
essay are those of the authors alone. On March 22, Dr.
Gale is delivering testimony (co-authored by Gregory
Montanaro, Executive Director of FPRI's Center on Terrorism)
on bioterrorism, before the Pennsylvania Senate Committee on
Public Health and Welfare.


PLANNING A SEA-BORNE TERRORIST ATTACK

by Lawrence A. Husick and Stephen Gale

The following is a hypothetical scenario drawn from open-
source information. It is intended only as an illustration
of the use of technology against highly technological
societies, and the security impacts that need to be
addressed in decision-making about the use and logistics of
such technologies.

Increasing demand for energy is intensifying the pressure to
import large volumes of natural gas to the United States.
Using wellhead liquefaction technology, natural gas may be
delivered to consumers relatively cheaply. One typical
project to build a port facility for this gas is the
Philadelphia Gas Works' proposal at the Tioga Terminal on
the Delaware River. Even assuming, as the company does,
that state and federal governments will provide ongoing
physical security for the terminal, the failure to include a
security impact analysis in the project proposal is a
critical failure, and is emblematic of similar failures with
respect to security in almost every project proposal and
decision since September 11, 2001.

BACKGROUND
In the late 1970s, in the wake of the 1973 OPEC embargo and
the subsequent "oil shock," energy economics made it
feasible to use existing technologies to capture, compress,
ship, and market the wellhead natural gas that had, prior to
that time, simply been flared in oil fields in the Middle
East, South Asia, and elsewhere. By using some of the
captured gas as the source of power for the cryogenic
plants, the gas could be condensed, and the cleaner, more
energy-dense fractions shipped in giant, specially designed
tankers to the cold-weather markets in North America and
Europe.

According to US government sources, "Large LNG tankers hold
up to approximately 130,000 cubic meters of LNG in liquid
form, or about 2.8 billion cubic feet. As of late 2003,
there were 151 LNG tankers worldwide."[1] Distributors have
constructed, "four marine receiving terminals located at
Elba Island, GA; Cove Point, MD; Everett, MA; and Lake
Charles, LA. Higher U.S. natural gas prices in recent years
have stimulated plans for expansion and new construction of
LNG marine terminal facilities. According to the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission, in addition to expansion plans
at the four existing LNG import facilities, in the Lower 48
States, more than 35 proposals have been put forth to serve
North American markets."[2] Among these is included
Philadelphia, PA.[3]

In order to assess the risks associated with LNG shipping
and port operations, in 1978, Peter van der Linde determined
that under certain circumstances (scenarios) the
consequences of a single accidental rupture of an LNG tanker
would cause the scale of devastation usually associated with
a nuclear attack (without the nuclear fallout.)[4]
Following van der Linde's analysis, the consequences of
these accidental scenarios have been imagined for New York
City, Boston, and other ports where LNG storage and
distribution facilities have been planned or are now
operating.

Prior to the attacks on the USS Cole in October 2000, and on
the French taker Limburg in October 2002, the public's
perception of the implications of direct terrorist attacks
on shipping was limited to the Palestinian hijacking of the
Achille Lauro in October 1985, in which 400 passengers were
held hostage, and one, a wheelchair-bound American, was
killed and thrown overboard. Military-style destruction of
vessels by small-craft loaded with explosives was not
considered to be a credible threat to shipping.

The attack on the Cole by al Qaeda operatives in the harbor
in Aden, Yemen changed all that. Using a small inflatable
boat loaded with explosives the attackers were able to blow
a 40x60 foot hole in the side of the armored ship,
inflicting heavy damage both above and largely below the
waterline. Seventeen Navy personnel were killed and thirty-
six injured in the attack. Shortly thereafter, a small boat
laden with explosives attacked the French tanker Limburg at
Ash Shihr, Yemen. In that attack, both the inner and outer
hulls of the double-hulled ship were penetrated, and damage
extended, according to the Captain, "Seven or eight meters
into the cargo hold which was filled with crude oil."

Similar to oil tankers, LNG tankers are double-hulled.
Unlike oil tankers, however, LNG cargo is contained in a
series of three to five giant "thermos bottles" - spherical
or prismatic tanks - that maintain the cargo at -260F at
normal atmospheric pressure. Under current standards, LNG
tankers are not armored, nor are they designed to withstand
deliberate attack. Instead, the tanks are surrounded by
insulating foam that is, in some cases flammable, and in all
cases, fragile. They are, in fact, constructed to meet the
international "Gas Tanker Code" and must also meet the US
Coast Guard "Type IIG" standard of subdivision, damage
stability, and cargo tank location, neither of which is
designed to minimize, no less prevent, the consequences of
an intentional terrorist attack on an LNG tanker.

In addition to safety standards, the energy industry often
notes that the US Coast Guard maintains an "exclusion zone"
around LNG tankers during port operations under the terms of
regulation 33 C.F.R. 127. As with many regulations,
however, monitoring and compliance requires only that the
owner/operators of LNG tankers and port facilities maintain
responsibility for security training and operations, and
that a current security certification by the owner/operator
be submitted to the Coast Guard. No active surveillance of
the exclusion zone is required, either above or below the
water surface, and no protective devices capable of
detecting and/or repelling the approach of an explosive-
laden small craft is provided. The FY 2006 Federal Budget
sent to Congress by the President has also eliminated the
Department of Homeland Security's Port Security Grant
Program, despite the US Coast Guard's own estimate that our
ports should spend over $5.4 billion in the next ten years
for security improvements.[5]

In addition, although the typical LNG tanker may travel at
speeds above 20 kts. on the high seas, in port operations,
they are required to maintain much lower speeds, and often
rely on tugs to maneuver. As contrasted with small outboard
motor-driven boats that can easily achieve speeds over 40
kts. and can turn within their own lengths, LNG tankers are
the sea-going versions of the proverbial "sitting ducks."

PLANNING
Assuming that a group of terrorists has the tactical
objective of a coordinated attack on an LNG tanker or port
facility (and, for purposes of this discussion, ignoring any
coordination with other groups with the objective of causing
massive disruptive attacks on the entire energy
infrastructure and markets), the initial phase of the
operation would be the acquisition of a suitable small
vessel. This is trivial since, in recent years, inflatable
(and rigid inflatable) boats equipped with relatively
powerful outboard motors have become available for purchase
through any number of mail-order catalogs. Keep in mind
that these boats can achieve speeds of over 50 mph and
easily carry loads of hundreds of pounds in addition to the
driver. For terrorists finding themselves short of case, in
many harbors these boats are often moored or docked in
relatively unattended areas, and with little or no means to
prevent theft. Furthermore, because such craft are
typically used only on weekends, a missing small boat is
unlikely to be noticed for quite some time.

For those planning the attack, the next step is the
acquisition of appropriate explosive materials. And again,
obtaining the materials and know-how is not very difficult.
For example, for the attack on the Murah Building in
Oklahoma City, a devastating bomb was easily concocted from
readily available materials: common fuel oil and ammonium
nitrate fertilizer, which may be purchased at any farm
supplier in large quantities. Other explosives (and
detonators) are similarly easy to obtain, particularly for
today's well-funded and geographically dispersed terrorist
organizations. As far as know-how is concerned, a simple
search of the Internet will result ample public domain
technical information, as well as descriptions of the
"tradecraft" that is needed to purchase and transport the
needed materials. And, where appropriate information is
proscribed or unavailable on the Internet, manuals and
training information has been assembled and widely
distributed by al Qaeda.

Finally, in order to complete the planning for an attack on
an LNG tanker, it would be necessary for the terrorist group
to obtain precise information about the design, current
location and itinerary of a target LNG tanker. This
information must be sufficiently precise to permit the group
to attack by direct interception at high speed, to avoid
detection and timely reaction by the Coast Guard or local
marine law enforcement agencies. And again, modern
information technologies have made the task relatively
simple. Without any consideration for its potential misuse,
the Internet provides an ideal tool: the Vessel Tracking
Information System (VTIS.)

Developed roughly five years ago, the VTIS is a real-time
traffic information network used by captains and pilots in
many of the world's busy shipping ports. Telemetry systems,
relying on existing global positioning system receivers and
communications radios, instantly transmit position, course
and related information. Sophisticated systems carried by
port pilots even provide a visual display of all large ships
in the harbor, and compute future tracks to reduce the
chance of a collision.

Many ports around the world have or are now installing VTIS,
and many of these are interconnecting them using the
Internet. One source, "AISLive.com," currently provides
free, real-time information on each vessel transiting many
of the world's busiest harbors, along with detailed
information about each ship including a photograph, size,
position, speed, heading, and destination. For a nominal
fee, the system even offers the ability to watch for
particular ships transiting user-defined zones, and then
instantly sending this information to the subscriber via an
email address, which may be a cellphone, or similar device.
Note that, while the ports of Philadelphia, Wilmington, and
Trenton/Camden, are not yet connected to the system,
implementation is likely in the near future.

Clearly, with real-time information on the position,
heading, speed, and destination of an LNG tanker, together
similar information for most of the other vessels in the
port, execution of a Cole-style attack would be a relatively
simple exercise. Even if the terrorists were not intent on
a suicide mission, the additional investment of a few
hundred dollars would permit the purchase an automatic pilot
system that could be controlled by radio or cellular
telephone from the shore.

CONSEQUENCES OF AN ATTACK
Despite van der Linde's and other warnings, and the examples
of several cases of earlier accidental releases that have
resulted in the detonation of LNG, the consequences of a
rupture of an LNG tanker and subsequent ignition of the gas
were not thoroughly studied by United States government
security agencies until 2004. In the 2004 study by Sandia
National Laboratories, the resulting report (quietly
released on 21-DEC-04), estimated that an intentional attack
on an LNG tanker would result in a vapor cloud of explosive
gas spread over a radius of almost 2 miles from the ship.
Any source of ignition within that vapor cloud would
instantly cause an explosion of devastating proportion and
horrific effect.

The US military's largest non-nuclear weapon is the so-
called "daisy cutter" bomb, (designated BLU-96), disperses
2,000 lbs. of a flammable hydrocarbon, has a blast zone of
over 500 feet in radius, and consumes all available oxygen
within that zone, and for some distance beyond. Compare
this with the 130,000 cubic meters of LNG contained in a
typical tanker: 3,237,472.7 MMKJ (million kilo joules) of
energy, or the equivalent of 775 kilotons of TNT. (N.B. The
bomb that destroyed Hiroshima yielded 15 kilotons of TNT
equivalent.[6]) Keep in mind that the conflagration zone
envisioned by Sandia for an LNG tanker attack extends
outward for as much as three miles from the ship. In this
zone, everything is exposed to searing temperatures, and all
of the oxygen is consumed by the explosion, thus suffocating
all living things. Beyond this zone, massive damage results
from the shock wave. For cities that have large buildings
with glass facades, for example, nearly universal
destruction of the glass in the zone beyond three miles
creates a killing field both inside and outside the
structures, as glass, propelled by the shock wave
propagating outward at over 775 mph from the explosion zone,
is rained on citizens from above.

MAKING RATIONAL CHOICES FOR PHILADELPHIA AND ELSEWHERE
In the calculus of terrorism, the odds are always with the
terrorists. As so many witnesses pointed out to the 9-11
Commission, while those who protect us must be right all of
the time, terrorists need only succeed once. Furthermore,
no society can afford to protect every potential target,
against all kinds of threats, all of the time. But we can -
and must - begin to make choices that take into account the
range of potential threats and the "security impacts"
(effectiveness) of the available alternative means of
providing security, and we should analyze the costs and
benefits (efficiency) of each of these methods. We should
then choose the alternative that presents, for similar
benefits, the least security risk.

As an example of the need for regulations to require this
form of security impact analysis, consider the proposal to
locate an LNG terminal at the Tioga Marine Terminal in
Philadelphia's Port Richmond neighborhood. (Roughly the
same analysis pertains to any other proposed site,
regardless of location.) The Tioga location, less than a
mile from a major interstate bridge, and approximately two
miles from Independence Hall, is also heavily populated. In
addition, since tanks would have to be erected to permit the
offloading of tankers and storage and distribution of the
LNG, there are additional risks from accidental or
intentional destruction of the shore-side facilities. In
addition, each full tanker would be required to transit the
river, through three other major interstate bridges that
would have to be shut down for brief periods as the tankers
pass underneath, and within only a few hundred yards of
historic sites, oil refineries, chemical plants, hotels, and
recreational facilities. Although the proposal is still in
its early stages, to date, no security impact analysis of
the proposed shipping operations or port facilities has been
commissioned. Even more significantly, questions of safety
and security have been largely omitted from the current
review process. As matters now stand, it appears that those
proposing the new LNG terminal simply assume that the states
and local governments will bear the entire responsibility
and costs for such a study, and for liabilities associated
with operation of the facility.

One alternative being proposed for eight locations around
the United States (but not yet for Philadelphia) is known as
an "offshore" terminal facility. In such systems, ships
moor to large anchored structures many miles away from
populated areas, offloading their LNG cargo through a
pipeline buried underneath the channel. In some instances,
water is used to warm the LNG in the pipeline, causing the
liquid to become standard natural gas, so that it may be
simply fed into conventional natural gas pipelines on-shore,
thus not only reducing, but relocating the risk from the LNG
tanker operations to safer locations.

According to Coast Guard Captain David Scott, "If you can
reduce the public safety impacts of something, all things
being equal, then an offshore terminal would be preferable
in many respects."[7] Philadelphia, with the large expanse
of Delaware Bay to the South, through which all ships must
transit, is in an ideal location to benefit from an offshore
LNG terminal. The lower reaches of the Bay are wide and
relatively shallow, yet protected from the open sea. Both
the New Jersey and Delaware coastlines of the Bay are
sparsely populated, and an offshore facility reduces the
impacts on delicate coastal wetlands that line the Bay. Van
der Linde proposed this solution in 1978, but his suggestion
has not yet been seriously considered.

CONCLUSIONS
There are clearly many appropriate locations that should be
considered for LNG terminal facilities that are proximate to
the urban and industrial areas that require diversified
energy sources. We recommend that, in addition to the
conventional considerations of business viability, regional
economic growth, job creation, inter-state competition for
resources, and the like, the type of security impact
analysis described above be required as an integral part of
any decisions related to future LNG project proposals. If
nothing else, the current heightened threat from terrorist
actions within the US, and the potentially devastating costs
in both lives and financial damage make the application of
such procedures not only rational, but also sane.


----------------------------------------------------------
Notes

[1]
http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/oilgas/storage/lng/feature/howisitshipped.html

[2] http://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/gen-info/horizon-lng.pdf

[3] http://www.pgworks.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2004/111504.htm

[4] Van der Linde, Peter and Naomi A. Hintze, Time Bomb:
LNG, The Truth About Our Newest And Most Dangerous Energy
Source, Doubleday, Garden City, NY 1978.

[5] http://www.aapa-ports.org/pressroom/feb0805.htm

[6] It is highly unlikely either that all of the cargo of an
LNG tanker would spill at once, or that it would efficiently
ignite, releasing all of its energy at once. However, if
one tank of the five on board were to spill and ignite, the
energy release would still equal more than 10 Hiroshima
bombs.

[7]
http://www.al.com/news/mobileregister/index.ssf?/base/news/109757270533150.xml


----------------------------------------------------------
For audiofiles of FPRI lectures by Messrs. Gale and Husick,
click on these URLs:

Lawrence Husick on A Layman's Guide to Cyberterrorism
http://www.fpri.org/multimedia/20030225.husick.cyberwarfare.html

Stephen Gale on Geopolitics After 9/11 and the Question of Homeland Security
http://www.fpri.org/20030522.gale.geopolitics911.html

Lawrence Husick on How Safe Are We, Really?
http://www.fpri.org/multimedia/20040211.husick.howsecure.html


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