It occurs to me that we have been arguing such things as the risks of Dubai handling our intra-port security as a function of import of WMD to our
shores but not that of what happens when the ports themselves become targets.
After Texas City, Pearl Harbor (II), Port Chicago, Naples, Halifax and Black Tom, it would seem that the potential of this threat should be
'historically' understood but after watching a program on the evolution of the Super Tanker, some things stood out to me:
1. We have FIAC type light pursuit systems to counter inshore raiding but nothing which can legitimately track and attack ships at or beyond the
territorial limit. Indeed, nothing large enough to make a difference is _home ported_ in major cities which could form the most viable terrorist
targets (so even if you detect early, it may literally be a race to get a tangential intercept from a 'real Navy' base, elsewhere).
2. It takes some of the VLCC/ULCC type ships upwards of a half hour and 8 miles to _intentionally_ stop from an average of 16 knots. Even the much
smaller categories of bulk container ships and LNG vessels are still twice the size of WWII equivalents and beyond the ability of a majority of our
AShM, whether sea or coastal based, to perform an immediate mobility kill upon. Aircraft with heavy weight PGM of various sorts could adequately be
guaranteed of sinking a ship but their reaction times are nortoriously long (over 20 minutes from Otis to NYC _at subsonic_ speeds) and their warloads
almost entirely optimized to the Counter Air mission.
3. There seems to be increasing use of 'flag of convenience' foreign registry vessels for all kinds of hazardous materials transport without regard
to specific qualification by vetting by crew or owner. Save for existing hazmat regs there is no peer guarantee as there is with most direct
4. While many of the deep draft super tankers are not able to enter our ports, America's appetite for oil in particular has led to a lot of
lightering with multiple ships potentially in-harbor or 'stacked' just outside it at once. In theory, this could be used to generate secondary kill
mechanisms by direct attack (boarding and accompaniment kill-magnification) or secondary spillage.
5. It would seem that the easiest way to 'guarantee safety' would be to use GPS tags and restricted (non-urbanized) Hazmat ports for things like
Type A and B fertilizer class vessels. Yet this implies a passive defense against negligence or accident as much as active terrorism. What happens
when you are looking at a specific class of ships (which must meet European and U.S. EFMA and HMR) and are listed on business databases? EVEN WITH
'prequalified' shipping agents, the potential for underway hijack exists. Particularly if these ships must also post sailing and arrival dates to
establish a given window of expectation before a threat level search commences, how _discretely_ can their travels remain when exposed through such as
a harbormaster's exit log? If you know a ships basic course and route, you can intercept it with nothing more than a private aircraft directing a
visual intercept by small craft and a mothership (OTH). And even a keyed transponder tag can be transfered -before- proximity activation within range
of coastal interrogation.
The MOAB destroyes upwards of 9-10 city blocks worth of terrain scape in a munition weight of less than 21,000lbs. Yet carriage of up to 3,000 TONS
of AN based fertilizers is allowed with basically no more than dry-hull/no-heat sealed compartment specs.
In the Texas City disaster; we saw 7,700tons detonate with an explosive force that threw 14 MILLION pounds of the (shredded) S.S. Grandcamp upwards of
10,000ft into the air. People 16 MILES away were driven to their knees by the blast.
Overlay the damage graphs on a city like Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle or NYC, especialy at peak hours, and the disaster starts to look almost
nuclear, including the poisonous toxins and secondary flash fires that would almost certainly also be associated.
It has all the hallmarks to me of a major potential disaster because it gives Terror Groups like AQ what they want: Higher and Higher death counts.
Small unit/low cost operational freedoms. Plausible Deniability if World Opinion turns against the act (absent physical proof if not by
location-as-intent). Simplistic access to near-border area targets and UNSTOPPABILITY within a given terminal radius of target.
A. Can satellites track and ID vessels from MASINT type specific signature ID or are they dependent on specific transponder tags? MODIS can track
nitrates in the ocean surface for instance, does it see fertilizer ships as specific 'hot spots'? What about other HM transports?
B. How would you institute a predispositional battle plan to quick-find a rogue explosives ship? P-3s at X. JDAMs at Y. JSTARS or E-3B at Z.
C. What materials onboard would you expect a terrorist to have to use to saturate a high DWT volume of AN with sufficient deflagratory or
decomposition effect to gain predetonation conditions and how long would this process take? Could preemplaced incendiaries as were rumored to be used
by partisan dockworkers and longshoreman to sabotage U.S. ships heading to Europe in WWI be used with sufficient density as to achieve a time delay
D. How would you execute a quick attack to attempt to retake the vessel in question and at what distance would you expect such an effort to be
abandoned in trade for a disablement or direct attack? Is it a mobility kill on the engines? Is it a bridge storm or steerage spaces attack to
regain navigational control? Do you attack the holds themselves to disable the material threat itself and if so, what means (lethal gas,
mines/flooding) are within bounds to assure immediate loss of whatever explosive reaction 'chemistry' is inherent to the material in question?
E. Closer in, how would you ID and stop a 10-20,000ton ship which had decided to 'snowplow' breach a given Territorial Limit (12nm for the U.S.)
holding zone and what kinds of direct-action comms would you expect a Coast Guard or Harbor Service to have to give threat warning in time for a
command chain decision to lead to a properly reactive attack? Given that 'anything but the harbor bay itself' is a better defense than nothing, as
an alternative or backup to direct interdiction, would you consider- Block Ships? Ram Ships? Channelization Dredging? Entry Control Booms? Mines?
High Resolution ISAR radar on a buoy or guide ship?
F. Are there classification standards for detonation/flooding/gas release hazardous cargos on various tonnage-X class vessels that can be applied to
both disaster mapping and specific ID/interval period cataloguing for a given cargo (i.e. a likelihood system for attack based on damage yields
leading to a specific ID and reporting system when 'part of the net' carrying specific, high lethality, substances)?
Caps lock is not your friend...
ABOUT ATS: General ATS discussion etiquette (review link)
4) Most of all, do not use ALL CAPS in posts and thread titles.
[edit on 8-6-2006 by UK Wizard]