Israel, Cyprus should cooperate on security of offshore rigs, ex-navy chief says

V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom says that offshore rigs are subject to threats from international terrorists, and that cooperating would heighten security.

Oil drilling platform 370 (photo credit: Lee Celano/Reuters)
Oil drilling platform 370
(photo credit: Lee Celano/Reuters)
Israel and Cyprus should coordinate defenses of their offshore natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea, former navy chief, V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom, said Wednesday during a security conference in Rishon Letzion.
Addressing an event organized by the Israel Homeland Security (iHLS) website, which focused on securing strategic facilities, Marom said an arrangement with Cyprus would benefit both countries.
It would also avoid the kind of situation in which Cypriot and Israeli maritime patrol aircraft fly near one another and monitor the same naval sectors, but transmit their data to Tel Aviv and Larnaca respectively, without any coordination.
In recent years, Israel has installed multiple layers of defenses around the offshore platforms in its exclusive economic zone, Marom added. "Looking out from the rig, one sees only water all around. But that's a deceptive view. It's not an island. There's a whole world [of defenses] around," he said.
The outer most layer of security is made up of intelligence, based on inter agency cooperation between Navy Intelligence, Military Intelligence, the Shin Bet, and the Mossad. "There are a million and one elements at sea. With al-Qaida operating around the world, we should know about the threats, and evaluate the situation," Marom said.
The second ring of security is based on the navy's ability to assemble a live picture of all naval activity. "This involves operating a whole system of sensors," Marom stated, including drones carrying naval radars that are used for aerial patrols.
Lastly, security measures around the rigs themselves form the "last line of defense," he added. "If someone manages to get to rig, a security force is needed to rapidly intercept the imminent threat."
It would be a mistake to focus on the rig's defenses as the primary measure protecting it, the former navy chief stressed, saying, "Look at the whole system."
Radars and electro-optics sensors are spread out along the Israeli coastline. They are joined by sensors on board ships, and airborne senors, as well as sensors on rigs. This enables the navy to possess the situational awareness needed to prevent attacks in time, Marom said.
Finding out "who is there, and what are their intentions is most of the work," Marom said. "Then comes the decision-making process, and responses [to potential threats]." Most security personnel protecting the rigs in Israel's exclusive economic zone are ex-navy sailors, who still do reserve service in the navy. "They know how to operate the [sensor] systems," said Marom.
Israel's integrated security approach is right for the country's regional environment, Marom said, describing the region as a "pretty wild jungle, with many threats," including Gazan terror organizations, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and armed groups in Syria.
Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Amnon Sofrin, who coordinates homeland security activities at Israel Aerospace Industry's subsidiary, Elta, listed the growing number of platforms that are available for naval security.
These include the Maritme Heron drone, which can carry a radar, and coastal long-range radars with a 200 kilometer range. "Two coastal radars can be deployed, one in Israel and the second in Cyprus," Sofrin said.
Sofrin also discussed the recently unveiled Katana unmanned boat, which has a variety of surveillance means, and remote control weapons.
Also addressing the conference was Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Ze'ev Tzuk-Ram, the deputy head of the National Security Council.
He warned of "more than a few gaps" in private sector preparations for emergencies.
Ram said he identified some 8,000 factories that are vital for national continuity, adding that "not all segments of the economy have taken into account" the consequences of some of the factories ceasing to function during a future war.