The world's perspective on security issues had greatly changed after the events of the 9/11 incident. Great strides to enhance maritime security were made following that incident. We see nations working together for a safer environment as seen in the rapid adoption and implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code in July 2004.

Historically, most oil spill response activities took place in coastal waters and coastlines due to collision and grounding of vessels. We must now also consider the possibility of oil spills occurring in ‘non traditional’ areas due to terrorism and piracies.

The threat of terrorism is very real. The “USS Cole” at Aden, Yemen on October 2000 and “MT Limburg” off the coast of Yemen on October 2002 were examples. Many regions of the world with high maritime traffic are considered hot spots for such terrorist and piracy activities. For instance, certain parts of the Malacca Strait are known for piracy and sea robberies. These activities may well lead to major oil spills. Vessels are considered “soft targets” for a terrorist attack. These incidents will generate high publicity and may create devastating environmental damage. The consequences are too severe for us to ignore as the economic impact may cripple the global economy.

Oil spill responses are complex and each incident presents their own challenges. Oil spill response organizations have little exposure when dealing with an incident resulting from a terrorist attack. What considerations are given to the oil spill responder's safety? Oil spill response organisations must factor in such scenarios into their contingency plans. In the bigger picture of a major incident the role of the oil spill responder may not be the primary focus of an incident command. They have to be proactive to make necessary preparations and security arrangements with government agencies and security providers.

The author will use the case history of the ‘Limburg,’ to which the Alliance responded, as an example to illustrate the response and responder security issues that arise during such an event.

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Author notes

1 DISCLAIMER: The opinions and views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any other party.