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Weaknesses, what weaknesses?

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The global Oil and Gas Industry has grown exponentially in the last 20 years seeing a 50% increase. Global dependency on these companies has never been so important as it is today, with growth parameters indicating energy demand to double by 2050.

The supply chain from upstream to downstream and the links between envelop the entire globe. This intricate and important structure has always been and will be a target for terrorist entities, sabotage, hard-line protesters, illicit actors, individuals, and groups found in areas of political and civil unrest, and well organised cyber black hat hackers. The dependency and importance of this industry highlights the need for a continued dynamic approach to security in the Oil & Gas Industry, and the developing Green Energy Sector. Many commentators are keen to highlight this fact but fail to provide solutions.

These threats to the industry are divided into two approaches. One being physically attacking infrastructure and personnel, and the second by cyber intrusion of critical infrastructure software used in the running and management. Although both means are an attack, they require far different preventative measures. Looking specifically at physical attacks there have been a substantial number conducted since the industry’s inception. In Nigeria, July 2000, 35 armed young men from a village in Bayela State boarded a Shell owned rig and took 165 oil workers hostage including twenty foreigners. Their demands were met by Shell and the employees were released four days later. Again in 2003 100 oil workers were held hostage aboard an offshore installation off the coast of Nigeria. In November 2010 Mexico, four Greenpeace activists took protesting action by climbing onto the deep-water oil rig Centenario. Although this was a peaceful protest, access was gained to the rig and highlighted an area of weakness which could be utilised in the future by illicit entities. Furthermore, production on the rig was interrupted due to this security breach. Recently in March 2021, a large-scale attack in Palma, Mozambique was conducted by over 200 militants, who seized control of the town and forced a gas drilling site owned by TotalEnergies to cease production. Many of the workers had to flee the site and were evacuated later.

The above is just a small example of security incidents that have happened in the last 20 years. It is easily noted in the data that physical attacks happen predominantly in areas of unrest, whether civil or political and in developing nations. Unfortunately, these incidents are not abating and continue to occur globally. This potentially will be exacerbated in the near future due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the world Since 2020. When considering past events, the current economic climate around the world and the global energy demand, which is expected to double by 2050, it is paramount that the industry’s companies look to adapt, strengthen, and provide dynamic efficient preventative solutions. Three key areas will be highlighted and elaborated on which will aid in providing measures to reduce these threats. The first is Surveillance, the second Training, and the third is Dynamic Close Protection Officers (DCPO).

Surveillance is a highly beneficial solution now due to the advancements in technology. The high definition of cameras and videos, the extended battery life, and the extremely large data storage available in devices is astounding. Add these improvements to overall smaller cameras and wireless link capabilities and you can have a sufficient and superior CCTV surveillance web around a perimeter. However, the placement of said CCTV, covert and overt cameras, blind spots, fabricated blind spots, and the efficacy of the surveillance technician can mean the difference between an efficient prevention method and a waste of company assets. Furthermore, if we look specifically at government agencies who specialise in surveillance, they do not just utilise technology, but combine them with highly trained surveillance operators. The utilisation of these specialists to assess and evaluate surveillance systems from the ground up can be significant in their operating ability. Once the system is functioning at a higher level the combination of a Dynamic Strategic Surveillance Group (DSSG) can add the required security layer and overlap that many organisations are missing.

The DSSG can be made up of one small team of five, which includes a rotating CCTV supervisor as the link to the remaining team of four, or multiple teams working in symmetry in a specific or expanded area of operations. Their mobility and dynamic approach provide a vastly superior surveillance model. In a covert or overt stance, they can provide real-time recordable surveillance of potential and continuing threats. This can not only provide usable evidence when pursuing legal action, but also a key tool in diffusing their capability at an advanced phase, and thus reducing the overall risk. Another area which they can provide is observing the trend or trend change that occurs in criminal entities in specific locations, providing an ability to adapt and evolve the security plan pre-emptively.

As mentioned above the ability in security systems can be severely reduced if personnel skill levels are low individually or as a team. Therefore, the continued specific training of individuals, teams, and security groups is paramount for continued effectiveness. This should not be approached with arbitrary ideas, or broad procedures with a one size fits all mentality. Firstly, an assessment of the individuals or teams’ level should be gained. Once the median level is determined it should be evaluated against the current risk matrix specific to the location(s) or companies. Findings will supply crossover areas which highlight specific disciplines that require attention and training. Whether they are refresher training or are unknown and require a new complete program. Furthermore, it should be recognized that training is separated by type. For example, mandatory scheduled procedural and compliancy training can be supplied for by in-house instructors known by the trainees and aware of company policies and procedures. The second type are specialised disciplines and fields which require proficient, highly qualified instructors. Sourcing these from outside the business from a notable and qualified security company is paramount for absorption and proficiency in a new skill.

Continually developing your employee’s knowledge and skill sets not only provides a more efficient and dynamic workforce but provides motivation and fulfilment in their individual careers, and brings value to their continued employment. Furthermore, security operators that are highly skilled in specific disciplines or a multitude of fields negates the requirement for larger numbers of unskilled or lesser trained personnel. Where a company has 50 security personnel, once evaluated it may be significantly more efficient and unobtrusive to utilise 15-20 highly skilled elite DCPOs. The efficacy of a highly skilled Dynamic Close Protection Officer should not be underestimated and undervalued within any security environment.

The level of training that a Dynamic Close Protection Officer has undertaken can be quite different depending on the training provider, the country of origin, and their own previous experience, background, and knowledge. Therefore, the level of skill and ability can be hard to ascertain by a company or individual that requires these services. Security companies that utilise a specific vetting procedure that not only provides highly skilled, proficient DCPOs, but provides personnel with the specific characteristics, attitude, and training level that can be hard to find. Establishing a great working relationship with a professional security company who conduct themselves in this way is paramount to current and future success in mitigating risk and one’s proactive stance to future threats.

From an outside perspective it can be hard to understand what a Dynamic Close Protection Officer has completed and experienced in the past, let alone know the skill sets they have acquired. Using a close protection officer from the United Kingdom as an example, due to their high level of training and demand throughout the globe, it can provide a greater understanding of what one can expect when obtaining their services. A former elite British Royal Marine Commando, who has served eight years of service with distinction, conducting multiple tours of operations, such as Afghanistan, and various highly skilled training packages throughout the globe provides a huge foundation and more. After leaving the Royal Marines they conduct a British Close Protection training course by a professional training provider. This covers as a minimum, risk and threat assessments, the reconnaissance and operational planning of a security team and the principle/ asset, tactical and procedural elements during foot and mobile operations, communications, conflict management, unarmed combat, specific weapons training, advanced driving techniques, proficient medical training, and so forth. Further training including foot and vehicle surveillance, technical surveillance, and counter surveillance can be undertaken to broaden one’s skill set, as well as the multitude of enhanced security courses available.

When the above disciplines are taught by highly skilled instructors utilising excellent facilities and training equipment, and the minimum standard to receive a close protection licence by the security industry association in the United Kingdom it sets the bar extremely high within the industry. When qualified DCPOs continue to develop the skill sets with continuation training and further knowledge, they become highly desirable, which is why the demand is so high for these types of individuals throughout the globe. This is of course one specific example, and it should be noted, that a ‘one size fits all model’ can be problematic leaving a team and plan unbalanced, therefore, it is more prudent to acquire DCPOs with the specific abilities to cover all parameters required by the security plan.

These three key areas that have been highlighted when combined can provide a multi layered approach. Utilising the security plan and model as an interlinked element within the company’s mechanics is paramount for successful integration. Where it is found to be a bolt-on solution with a single layer, cracks will form and continue to widen with weaknesses being left for illicit infiltration. It is too often observed in company management that the importance of security Is downplayed, especially when it comes to the reviews and assessments of current security models. These three areas once combined do not provide 100% efficiency, as perfection is not attainable, but the pursuit of perfection is. This multi-layered approach can provide a sound, effective foundation that can be adapted and evolved consistently by utilising the data obtained by in house assessments, surveillance observations, and the security company’s own analysis. Connecting these physical security elements to a layered multi-faceted Cyber security model will offer a strong and secure bridge to successful and profitable growth into the future.

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