To strengthen the security of India’s offshore oil and gas installations and prevent sabotage and terrorist attacks on them, the government is planning to extend the “safety zone” around the installations to 5 nautical miles (or 8 km) from the existing 500 metres.
“We have taken up this issue with the concerned authorities and have been told that the ministry of home affairs is taking it up with the cabinet committee of security,” a senior Petroleum Ministry official told Hindustan Times. “A draft cabinet note of the home ministry on India’s security incorporates this proposal for declaring a larger area around offshore installations the a ‘no vessel zone’.”
The country’s largest oil and gas exploration company — the state-owned ONGC that has 190 offshore installations — confirmed that it has been asking the Petroleum Ministry to extend this 500 meter safety zone.
The officials of private oil and gas companies including Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and Cairn India Ltd — having major oil and gas installations on the western and eastern shores — echoed similar sentiments on the need to have a larger designated area around the offshore installations.
“Although we have patrolling boats, due to safety concerns, we do not keep firearms,” ONGC Chairman and Managing Director RS Sharma told Hindustan Times. “If a vessel comes close to our platforms and blows, it can cause a lot of damage. The existing 500 meter safety zone leaves us with very little time for the company to react or inform the coast guard or the navy.”
The 500 metre safety zone around offshore installations in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of India was set only last year and forms part of the Petroleum and Natural Gas (Safety in Offshore Operations) Rules, 2008.
A senior official of the Oil Industry and Safety Directorate in the Petroleum Ministry said, “We have supported the proposal but also feel that this would result in putting extra monitoring liability on the operators.”
“We welcome the proposed initiative of the government in strengthening the security area around nations strategic oil and gas assets,” said P.M.S. Prasad, head of RIL’s oil and gas operations. “This will help deal with the perceived challenge from individuals with questionable motive close to the vicinity of off shore installation under cover.”
Refuting these fears a senior private company official said, “Cost will not increase much whether it is 500 meters or 5 nautical miles. If the safety zone is increased, we will get more reaction time. In the 500 meters safety zone, nothing can be done.”