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Maritime security 'a top priority'

Manama, February 4, 2009

Bahrain and its coalition partners must step up maritime security to protect vital installations from terrorist attacks, a senior US military official said.

US Fifth Fleet Commander vice-admiral Bill Gortney called for more training and testing exercises to build up regional expertise and prevent the sea being used as a launch pad from which to attack.

He said among the assets which required most protection were ports, desalination plants, oil and gas facilities and power generation plants.

'Many of these assets are not isolated but near or in larger cities and economic centres and you can imagine the local and global impacts if some of these key sites were successfully attacked,' he said.

'Due to the large amount of regional maritime infrastructure, particularly in the Gulf, business and regional nations alone cannot defend and protect everything without help, nor should they be expected to.

'The vast majority of the world's proven oil reserves and nearly 20 per cent of natural gas reserves are found here.'

'Simply put, the Middle East region provides fuel for the world's engine and is absolutely crucial to global economic stability,' he stated.

'Additionally more than 10,000 ships, dhows and fishing boats are active day to day within the area, carrying millions of tonnes of raw and finished goods.'

Vice Admiral Gortney was speaking at the opening of the second annual Maritime Infrastructure Protection conference, at the Diplomat Radisson SAS Hotel, Residence and Spa.

It featured speeches from industry experts, including navy officials on the key issues surrounding maritime security.

Around 300 people are attending the event, including representatives from 15 countries, which concludes tomorrow with a series of private discussions between military and government representatives.

The three-day conference aims to improve the defence and crisis response of coalition and infrastructure related organisations.

Vice Adm Gortney said the only way to minimise the threat of terrorism was to increase co-operation between navies and share more intelligence.

'The best way to become better navies is to conduct 'real world' operations and work as a team,' he said.

'As we've learned time and again nothing enhances performance like conducting operations together.'

'It is this constant cycle of learning, assessing and evolving that will eventually create a maritime infrastructure security force that cannot be breached.'

Vice Adm Gortney said maritime security was of critical importance to the region's tourism industry and a failure to embrace regional co-operation could lead to disastrous consequences.

'Some people think that critical infrastructure is only offshore oil and gas,' he said.

'It comes down to host nation's responsibility. They need to define what they want to protect and then they need to figure out how they want to protect it.'

'We work with all nations out here. We are the outer layer of defence and we can provide the first layer of surveillance,' he added.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | maritime security | US Fifth Fleet Commander |

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