Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Security experts have stressed the importance of protecting seas against terrorism during the second symposium on maritime disasters that began earlier this week in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The seminar lasted for three days, under the patronage of Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs, Prince Mohammed bin Naif. Experts asserted that in the light of the increasing dependence on energy in addition to natural factors, a rise in the level of marine problems is widely expected.
Prince Mohammed Bin Naif stated that the current situation regarding terrorism requires mobilizing efforts on local and international levels. “You are all aware that all means of transportation are exposed to danger at sea where many lives are lost. We must do what it takes to acquire knowledge to face such disasters.”
Lieutenant Talal Anqawi, the Director General of the Saudi Border Guard, told Asharq Al Awsat exclusively that his department had not detected any attempts of terrorist operations at sea. He added, “Sea activity is limited, particularly in dangerous areas. There are areas where it is completely banned and other locations where there are fears that such action would take place.” He continued, “We are closely monitoring the sea and land, and we are very concerned about the safety of both.” He added that despite that the sea is a difficult place to execute terrorist plans, vigilance is required. “All existing national and international companies take their own precautionary measures to control terrorist activity,” he said. Anqawi further highlighted the importance of combating terrorism in fear of the damage it could cause to economic interests of the oil industry and air transportation.
Dr Ahmed Koman, the Secretary General of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, asserted that sea disasters are a threat to the entire world. He said, “In light of industrial progress and the increasing dependence on energy in addition to the natural factors, there is an expected rise in the level of maritime problems. This demands awareness on all levels and the exchange of experiences and expertise between different associations.”
Jabara al Suraisiri, the Saudi Minister of Transport, pointed out that Saudi Arabia had signed several agreements regarding sea activity including the Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea and others related to search and rescue efforts.
Over 600 people took part in the symposium, including officials from the Saudi Border Guard, academics and officials in charge of transportation and ports from different Arab and non-Arab countries.
Statistics distributed on the sidelines of the seminar, as well as an accompanying exhibition that was launched by Prince Mohammed Bin Naif before the opening of the seminar, indicated a large number of sea disasters that had taken place in 2006 and 2007. These include the capsizing of Al-Salam Boccaccio in February 2006 in which over 1000 people died, the sinking of the Al-Dana ship in March 2006 that caused the deaths of 58 people and the collision of the Djibouti Ferry in April 2006 which led to the deaths of 113 people. More recently, there was the Sydney Ferry collision that occurred in March 2007.