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LPG Supertanker Attacked with RPG and Small Arms Off of Yemen

Thursday, October 27, 2016 14:41
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Image from splash247

The Galicia Spirit is a fairly new Liquefied Natural Gas carrier that was built in 2004.  It is 280 meters long by 43 meters wide. It was attacked yesterday by armed men on a fast small craft.  The attack occurred in the choke point of the Bab el Mandeb. Super LPG tankers like this are big, fat, slow and unmaneuverable targets.  It was fired on with small arms and a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG).  RPGs are designed to pierce tank armor, so one should be able to pierce the hull of a oceangoing vessel. From

British maritime security firm MAST said a small vessel had approached the tanker and fired a rocket propelled grenade (RPG).

“MAST understands that the vessel had no armed security team on board, and that the vessel sustained small arms fire as well as the RPG,” it said. “It is unclear whether this is a terrorist attack or piracy.”

In 1915, the British would have been astonished if anyone would have suggested that they could not carry weapons on their private ships.  A few years before, an American had made the first solo circumnavigation of the globe.  He carried a rifle with him to fend off pirates. Today, a hundred years later, a UK security broker gives this advice. From splash247:

“The use of RPGs in an attack against a vessel in this shipping choke point is very worrying,” UK security broker ASKET said in a note today, adding: “Crews are advised to maintain a good lookout by radar and enhanced watchkeepers, crew should take cover in pre designated areas away from the side of any threat if possible and be prepared to fight any fires caused by an exploding warhead.”

Fortunately, the RPG hit the poop deck, and was not aimed at the load of LPG.  It is not clear if an RPG would be able to ignite LPG on such a vessel.  The LPG is likely carried inside of pressurized containers that have some space separation from the hull. From splash 247:

Ambrey Risk, a UK security consultancy, is warning of a step change in violence seen in waters in the southern Red Sea in the past month. With three instances of skiffs approaching three ships in the past month, including one where an RPG was fired at an LNG carrier resulting in damage to the poop deck and citadel, the British firm is warning pirates in the region are stepping up activities further ashore with a view to boarding larger ships.

Having armed naval escort ships or having armed security on board that is willing to shoot back, has proved to be an effective deterrent against attack by pirates in small boats. A change in the Law of the Sea treaty to cement the right of ships officers to legally have defensive arms aboard would be a good reform for the U.S. to seek.

It would be much cheaper than providing naval escorts. A combination of a few fast and agile naval vessels and some defensive small arms on board many private vessels would be a hard to beat combination against pirates and terrorists.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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