• Home
  • News
  • US-led alliance launches drone patrols to monitor Gulf energy shipping lanes - S&P Global Commodity Insights
  • 2023 March 23 17:23

    US-led alliance launches drone patrols to monitor Gulf energy shipping lanes - S&P Global Commodity Insights

    For the US Navy's 5th Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain, surveillance of the waters surrounding the Arabian Peninsula now includes an unmanned surface vessel fleet, in partnership with allies, to improve what can be seen above, on and below the water, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights. 

    The goal is to help secure seaborne trade, including vital energy shipments, that remains vulnerable to regional tensions, as well as now growing supply chain issues and the impacts of the situation in Ukraine. 

    "We are focused on addressing any destabilizing activity, whether it's a state-run or non-state actor," 5th Fleet spokesman Commander Tim Hawkins said in an interview. "Our focus is on any activity that impedes the free flow of trade and commercial traffic in key regional waterways that help fuel the global economy." 

    Other countries in the unmanned surface vessel project, dubbed Task Force 59, are the UK, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, with Jordan soon to join, he said.

    Hubs to process the data collected by the drones have been established in Bahrain and Jordan.  Eventually they aim to establish an unmanned surface vessel fleet of 100 platforms by the end of the summer to monitor some 5,000 miles around the Arabian Peninsula, with about half now available for deployment, Hawkins said. After that, "it will grow, the inventory will grow." 

    A similar program, called Task Force 99, is based in Qatar and monitors air traffic through aerial drones, while a land-based unit called Task Force 39 maintains a fleet of unmanned ground vehicles. 

    For decades, the US military has maintained a heavy presence in the Gulf to safeguard the transit of oil tankers and container vessels, amid historical tensions between crude producer heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran.  But in recent years, with fractures growing in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US, other international powers, such as Russia and China, have sought to burnish ties with Riyadh, Tehran, Abu Dhabi and other major players. 

    US officials, however, maintain they remain deeply invested in the region but want more partners to buy in on strengthening security in and around the Gulf, as the American military downsizes its forces in the Middle East. 

    Deterring Iran, which experts say is responsible for many attacks on ships and energy infrastructure, including by the Yemeni Houthi rebels it allegedly arms, is a primary focus, General Michael Kurilla, head of the US Central Command, said in a recent press briefing. 

    Excluding Libya, the latest update of S&P Global Commodity Insights' Energy Security Sentinel report showed incidents targeting energy infrastructure and shipping in the Middle East had fallen sharply since the first quarter of 2022. 

    But the UK Maritime Trade Operations on March 17 reported shots fired between two ships near Yemen's port Hodeida. The vessel and crew were safe, it said.  It was the first reported attack since Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed on March 10 to resume diplomatic ties in a deal brokered by China, which had raised hopes of improved energy security for the 5,000 ships that use the shipping lanes every year to deliver crude oil from Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil exporter, LNG from Qatar, off and on the world's largest exporter of the fuel, along with other commodities vital to the global economy. 

    Before the Yemen incident, reported attacks were on oil tanker Campo Square on Feb. 10 in the Arabian Sea, oil products tanker Pacific Zircon in November 2022 off the coast of Oman and VLCC tanker Nissos Kea on Oct. 21 in "close proximity" to two drone strikes near Yemen's Ash Shihr oil terminal. 

    The unmanned drones, which are up to 38 feet long, collect data on shipping movements through sensors, which is then processed through artificial intelligence programs. Of the planned 100 platforms, 20 of them will be provided by the US and 80 from partner nations, Kurilla said. 

    The shipping industry is well aware of the unmanned surface vessel fleet in the waters over the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden and into the Red Sea, and there have been no accidents or concerns, Hawkins said. Some 5,000 vessels transit between Suez and the Persian Gulf every year, according to estimates by Minerva Bunkering, the world's largest physical bunker supplier. 

    Since January 2021, US and international forces have interdicted more than 15,000 illegal assault weapons and $1 billion of illicit drugs through use of more resources, including Task Force 59 and other security partnerships, Hawkins said.  Other operations have seized disguised explosives, dual-use chemical fertilizer, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, cruise-missile rocket engines, medium-range ballistic missile components and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition, he said. 

    The goal of maritime security doesn't change even if Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to resume diplomatic relations, the commander added. 

2023 June 2

18:26 Port leaders extend Climate Action Program for greener shipping
18:12 IAA PortNews’ summary of past week news
17:53 Distressed ship Papayiannis III repaired at HIP
17:39 Nansha Phase IV set a new high in the number of monthly test containers
17:23 All Weather Terminal supports business growth for NW Trading Limited at the Port of Hull
17:11 Port of London Authority Board names new non-executirve director
16:46 Container terminal of Vladivostok Sea Fishing Port handled 35.1 thousand TEU in May’23
16:39 Hutchison Ports to achieve Net-Zero in UK by 2035
16:22 CWS locates to the Saint Nazaire port facility to produce rigid sails
15:55 Global Ports handled 5000 imported vehicles in Saint-Petersburg in May
15:37 First drone vertiport in the Netherlands now operational
15:13 Thialf deployed for jacket installation at NnG as foundation work resumes
14:28 Viking announces additional sailings in Egypt
14:02 Oboronlogistics’ ferries transported 107 thousand tonnes of cargo by Ust-Luga – Baltiysk line in May’23
13:34 Proposed Gulf of Mexico LNG export facility announced
13:09 Costa Serena restarts in Asia, to resume outbound cruises dedicated to South Korea and Taiwan
12:41 Joint MPA-DITRDCA announcement on green and digital shipping
12:14 SASCO to start Northern Sea Route navigation under Northern delivery in June
11:38 Saipem’s technology for digital monitoring of subsea pipelines during laying operations achieves DNV qualification
11:17 Russia’s fish exports in 2022 rose by 5% — Ministry of Agriculture
10:36 Pilot VTMS with domestic software to be installed in the seaport of Sochi
10:12 Committees updated on Global South port security project
09:25 Sightseeing route in Nizhny Novgorod opened with pleasure boat Sotalia

2023 June 1

18:19 Wartsila partners with Transworld Ship Management on decarbonisation modelling
18:02 Rosmorport reports release of juvenile chum salmon into Lidovka River
17:51 Developing national legislation to tackle sea-based plastic litter
17:30 Establishment of Industrial Competence Center “Shipbuilding” finalized by USC
17:16 PGS secures a contract in the Mediterranean
17:09 UN says a salvage operation for FSO Safer set to begin
16:52 ILO and IMO chiefs pledge continued support for seafarers
16:47 GOGL - Transactions made under the share buy-back program
16:35 Semco Maritime announces the acquisition of Wind Multiplikator
15:58 Management Company of Russian Industrial Zone in Suez Canal Economic Zone to be liquidated
15:39 CMA CGM Group announces the acquisition of a Marseille passenger shipping company
15:01 Short-term contract extension for Abo FPSO
14:54 Gas leak at Melkoya stopped - Equinor
14:30 Russia’s State Duma denounced the treaty with Ukraine on the use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait
14:11 Eni and RINA sign partnership to accelerate the energy transition and decarbonisation of maritime transport
13:31 Zelenodolsk Shipyard named after M. Gorky delivers two passenger ships to Tatarstan Republic Fleet
13:07 MABUX: Bunker Weekly Outlook, Week 22, 2023
12:53 Wartsila guaranteed asset performance agreement delivers maximised overhaul intervals for NYK vessel
12:26 Yang Ming and HD Hyundai Heavy Industries signed contract for five new 15,500-teu LNG DF container vessels
12:03 Navigation season opened in the seaport of Okhotsk
11:39 Pherousa Green Shipping develops an ammonia cracker capable of converting ammonia to fuel cell quality hydrogen
10:56 Eidesvik Offshore enters into agreements for sale of its three seismic vessels
10:42 Perm Shipyard obtains status of Perm SEZ resident
09:50 RSV Mikhail Somov left Arkhangelsk for hard-to-reach polar stations in the Arctic
09:17 Rosmorport’s Far Eastern Basin Branch changes tariffs for towage services

2023 May 31

18:19 Jan De Nul to supply and install a new Pentland Firth interconnector
17:53 Belarus' MPs ratify agreement on inland navigation between Belarus and Russia
17:46 Tugdock, Crowley partner to innovate solutions for floating offshore wind energy
17:21 PGS secures large MultiClient project in Norwegian Sea
17:19 DNV puts Recommended Practice on public hearing to drive transparency and accuracy on vessel technical performance
15:54 Acceptance/delivery certificate signed for Aleksandr Deyev ferry built by Amur Shipyard
15:29 Long-term ocean freight rates collapse by almost 30% in a month as new US contracts reflect market reality - Xeneta
15:06 Governments of Venezuela and Brizil propose to resume energy and oil cooperation
15:01 Grain exports from Rostov Region ports in May’23 totaled 485 thousand tonnes
14:30 CPC lifted approximately 27.1 mln tonnes of crude oil from its Marine Terminal
14:07 Star Information Systems supercharges flagship system with new tech platform
13:38 Carnival Corporation appoints Paul Ludlow as president Carnival UK and P&O Cruises in leadership change