Fledgling Iraqi navy plans to buy new boats to protect key offshore oil terminals

August 10th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Fledgling Iraqi navy plans to buy new boats to protect key offshore oil terminals

Media: The Associated Press
Byline: n/a
Date: 10 August 2006

UMM QASR, Iraq_Iraq's fledgling navy plans to get 21 new boats over the next
two years as it prepares to take over the security of offshore oil
terminals, the main gateway for the country's petroleum exports, a senior
naval official said.

At present, the terminals are guarded by U.S. and Iraqi sailors while
British ships provide a cordon of protection. A British Royal Navy team is
also training the Iraqi Navy at its base in Umm Qasr, located on the
southeastern tip of largely-landlocked Iraq.

The Iraqi navy has in operation 10 fast aluminum boats, one rigid
convertible and one patrol boat in operation, Commodore Thamir Nasser, head
of operations for the Iraqi Navy, said Wednesday. The remaining 12 aluminum
boats, nine convertibles and four patrol boats are broken up and
cannibalized for spare parts, he said.

A two-year equipment acquisition program will result in the purchase of 15
patrol boats, four corvettes and two offshore support vessels, Thamir told
journalists on a tour of Iraqi and British patrol boats.

The delivery of the first vessels is expected by 2008, and the purchases
would be funded by the government and foreign money, he said without
elaborating. He also did not say which country would sell Iraq the boats.

Umm Qasr, the country's main commercial port and its only blue water port,
looks out into a sea channel connected to the Arabian Gulf, part of Iraq's
coastline that is less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) long.

The oil pipelines extend out from Umm Qasr to the terminal platforms into
the sea.

The 1,040-meter (3,432-feet) long Basra terminal is about 18 kilometers (11
miles) out to sea, and on an average pumps 1.8 million barrels per day into
ships parked alongside the platform's four berths.

The smaller, the Khor al-Amaya terminal, is about 12 kilometers (8 miles)
further north but has been closed since May due to a fire.

Tankers coming into the terminals are boarded by British Royal Navy teams
who search the ships for explosives and illegal weapons.

"The platforms provide a substantial part of Iraqi income," said Cmdr. Gavin
Pritchard, the captain of frigate HMS Kent, one of the British warships
protecting the platforms.

"There is no doubt that they are an economic and environmental target. They
are an obvious target to hit for those who want to damage Iraq's economic
well-being," he said.

Iraq has the world's third largest oil reserves, and its oil wealth is
likely to lay the foundation of its economic future. Oil has traditionally
been exported through the north into Turkey, and through the offshore

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein three years ago, the northern pipeline has
been shut down several times because of attacks by insurgents, and virtually
all of Iraq's oil is now exported through Umm Qasr.

Pritchard said the main aim of the British mission is to find ways to get
the "Iraqis back on their feet, where they can defend Oplats (the oil
platforms) themselves."

The loss of the platforms would be an "economic and environmental disaster"
for Iraq, he said.

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