Wednesday, May 5, 2010

ERM-BC-COOP: Wish I'd thought of that


I preach it.

I practice it.

"It" is planning with group dynamics; conversely, not planning in a vacuum.

The recent BP oil rig collapse and subsequent leak of oil into Gulf waters has been a major topic on the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) list.

Simultaneously on the same list is a thread about what the Department of Homeland Security is really all about.

One poster commented that "If a disorganized band of Somali pirates can take a Ship. I don't see why a semi-organized terrorist cell could not take an oil platform. Realistically they don't have to actually board an oil platform, just drive a boat loaded with explosives under it and blow it from there."

For the IAEM folks, the emphasis is on preventing a disaster once the event - the terrorists' act - is over.

To my mind, thinking as an enterprise risk management practitioner (a/k/a business continuity planner), the time to consider action is before the oil platform is towed to sea.

How can a drilling platform be protected?

It's not (as far as I know) practical to try to put a fence around the platform.

I thought about pirates in the Far East and off Africa.

Lots of ships are attacked. But one flag seems to be avoided. Israel's.

Could it be because the crews on Israel-flag vessels are armed and trained to use the weapons? During the height of the aircraft high jacking era, only one El Al jet was "captured" by air pirates. Since then, all attempts have met with failure - perhaps because Israel has for a long time had unidentified "sky marshals" on board, armed and trained to use their weapons.

There are "no fly" zones all over America. Stay clear of Cape Canaveral, especially when a launch is scheduled. Fly near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and expect an Air Force escort to the nearest secure airport.

Why can't there be "no float" zones around oil rigs? Zones that extend far enough out so that there is no repeat of the USS Cole incident at the Aden port in Yemen (see

What would it take to enforce a "no float" zone?

Radar and sonar manned 24*7 to detect threats.

Trained personnel with sufficiently long-range weapons to keep threats at a distance. These personnel might of necessity need to be military to be equipped with sophisticated targeting equipment. (Shoulder-fired missiles come to mind.)

Consider what is available to the bad guys.

What is the probability of such an attack occurring? My guess is that today, 5 May 2010, the likelihood is small.

But as long as the "developed" world remains heavily dependent on oil, and as long as the "developed" world fears environmental disasters (such as the BP incident), and as long as drilling platforms are easy targets, the probability of an attack increases.

Is it worth putting avoidance measures in place?

Cleanup may cost BP more than US$12 billion according to a Christian Science Monitor article (, a mess that night have been avoided or greatly mitigated through engineering. It cost 11 lives at the platform - sadly a loss that seems overlooked by the media.

Risk management always is a "bottom line" issue. Is it worth the money and the possible image hit for a company to take a chance? Can a government be obliged to share clean-up costs if it fails to protect drilling rigs within its coastal waters? What ARE the obligations of the drilling company and of the government?

I suppose we'll have to wait until the first terrorist attack to see what could have been accomplished if reasonable risk management options had been implemented.


John Glenn, MBCI
Enterprise Risk Management practitioner
Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale Florida
JohnGlennMBCI at gmail dot com

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