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Louisiana Republican worries about terrorist threats against offshore drilling rigs

With images of exploding offshore oil rigs and gushing undersea wells no doubt in his mind, a Louisiana congressman has introduced legislation that would establish a national commission to examine the threat of terrorist attacks against the offshore energy infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, a New Orleans Republican, has written H.R. 5684, the Marine Infrastructure Security and Counterterrorism Act, which would require the Secretary of DHS within 60 days of enactment to set up such a commission, working through the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The commission would study the threats, the vulnerabilities and the potential consequences of a terrorist strike against “offshore facilities, mobile offshore drilling units, and other vessels used for exploration, development, or production of energy,” says the legislation.

In addition, the DHS secretary would be required to review the vessel security plans for all mobile offshore drilling rigs, and similar vessels, to see whether their current security plans take into account the threat of terrorism. Follow-on reviews of these offshore energy vessels would be required every two years, and the DHS secretary would need to recommend countermeasures that vessel operators ought to implement at their own expense.

The legislation, which currently has no cosponsors, was introduced on July 1 and referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure. Rep. Cao, who was born in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1967, and fled that country when he was eight years old, serves on both of those House committees.

Other portions of Cao’s proposed plan to secure offshore energy facilities against terrorist attacks include counterterrorism exercises in the Gulf at least twice each year that focus on these offshore facilities, in coordination with state and local law enforcement; establishing and permanently locating a “Maritime Safety and Security Team” in the Gulf of Mexico area to focus on this threat; and equipping offshore vessels with automatic identification capabilities, so their movements can be monitored and the overall situational awareness in the Gulf can be enhanced.

H.R. 5684 also includes a wide variety of other maritime security-related measures.


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