A recent attack on a ship carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar was likely an act of terrorism, not piracy, a marine security expert has told Doha News.
And though Qatar wasn’t the target, it could lose business if such attacks continue, the analyst added.
The Galicia Spirit, a Spanish-registered LNG tanker, was approached by a small boat off the coast of Yemen on Oct. 25.
Following an investigation, it was determined this week that the small boat was carrying a “substantial amount of explosives,” enough to cause significant damage to the Galicia, owner Teekay said.
“It appears, however, that when the skiff was approximately 20 meters from the vessel, the explosives detonated, destroying the skiff and ending the attack,” it added.
None of the crew onboard the Galicia were injured, and the vessel continued its journey without further incident, maritime security broker Asket said.
The Galicia was escorted away from the area by a navy ship from nearby Djibouti, AFP reported, citing a statement from Teekay.
According to Asket’s managing director, the Galicia was likely not targeted because its LNG came from Qatar.
This was probably a coincidence, as the Gulf country is the world’s largest LNG producer, John Harris told Doha News.
However, he added “it is quite likely that the attack was not piracy motivated, but terrorist or paramilitary.”
“Prestigious targets such as an LNG Carrier are generally out of the reach of pirates due to the speed and general structure of the vessel.
Also, the cargo is too complicated to store for long periods as it needs fuel to remain cool, and so ransom negotiations which can go on for many months, would be cost prohibitive for the pirates.”
He added that a “catastrophic explosion” is unlikely due to the extensive safety features of LNG carriers.
But an attack that damaged or destroyed one of these ships would be “spectacular, sending shock waves across the world.”
And if such attacks become frequent, LNG vessels could be rerouted to avoid the Gulf of Aden and transit around Africa instead of using the Suez Canal.
This would mean that deliveries to Europe would take longer, cost more in fuel, and require more vessels to keep up supply.
It might also mean that countries could seek out new suppliers, potentially reducing Qatar’s exports, Harris added.
“Qatar and other nations will likely be looking at how to counter the threat or remove it by increasing patrols, and may be looking at vessels being protected in convoy or individually,” he told Doha News.