LAST week, four oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf waters suffered from acts of sabotage, and a drone attack led to the shutdown of Saudi Aramco’s pipelines. These two incidents raised the alarm about the extent our oil installations are currently protected and how much more it can be protected in the future against adversemilitary and technological elements.
This is the latest challenge that all our Arabian Gulf countries have to face. Can we safeguard oil installations that cover thousands of miles from the oil well head to the crude oil gathering centers, to various scattered refineries and all the way to the exporting facilities to be prepared for shipment in various export ports in the Arabian Gulf? We have to be alert 24/7 with all our tools, skills and experiences.
We now have to face the new challenge, which is hidden and nonapparent, and causes damage to our computer systems as well as disrupts almost anything and brings the whole system down within seconds.
Cyber-attacks are the new methods of attack that our world is not fully prepared to tackle especially after the damage is done. The aforementioned two incidents did not increase or cause any increase in the oil price or lead to any panic in the oil market.
However, the oil did go up, but not like the previous years. This time the market is well balanced and there was neither any disruption to the oil flow to the outside world nor did it cause much delays. The movement of the oil tankers in the Gulf is the responsibility of all countries in the world.
About 60 percent of the oil being transported internationally, the quantity of which can reach up to 15 million barrels, are destined to Asian countries. The world would not allow such thing to happen in terms of preventing oil movements from the Gulf. Military actions are possible but owing to the past experience of the Iran-Iraq war, no such interruptions occurred.
The use of new technology via computers and cyber-attacks are more damaging, as there are no indications or warnings about such attacks, and they are noticed only after the damage is done. Last week’s events represent another sign that we have to be vigilant, and more work must be done to ensure the security of our systems and our oil installations. It is no longer just military action, but it represents a new form of hidden sophisticated technology to handle.
By Kamel Al-Harami Independent Oil Analyst