During the wars of the 20th century, oil exploitation, storage and transport facilities have often been military targets.
According to a recent study, more than twenty oil tankers were sunk by military actions in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. No one knows how much of their cargos burned, how much spilled at sea or even how much remained in the wrecks. More recently our documentation department registered the following cases.
Iran-Iraq war 1980-1988
There were numerous attacks on oil tankers and terminals during this war, lasting from September 1980 to August 1988. According to Lloyd’s statistics, 547 vessels of all types were touched by missiles, bombs and other charges coming from planes, helicopters and vessels. 58 attacks caused over 500 tonnes of oil spill. From 1985 onwards, spilled quantities in the Gulf were such that they exceeded the total worldwide spill volume due to vessels’ accidents (see table).
Silk Pride, Sri Lanka, 30 October 2001
The small coastal tanker the Silk Pride was headed for Jaffna peninsula (Sri Lanka), loaded with 160 tonnes of kerosine and 275 tonnes of fuel, when four Tamil “tiger” suicide crafts attacked her. Three sailors and four soldiers were killed in the assault. Her cargo tanks were not damaged, the fire was controlled, and the vessel was towed to her destination by a military escort.
A subject for novelists
As far as oil tankers attacks are concerned, everything is possible including pollution blackmail, and writers specialised in politico-strategic thriller novels know that well. “The Devil’s Alternative” by Frederick Forsyth is a good exemple. The novel is set in an international terrorism background and mixes politics, a love story, adventure and espionnage. Russian and American governments are negociating an arms limitation treaty, while a British secret services agent obtains secret information about the Politburo from a Russian spy. Action grows ever greater, and the reality of the information and confrontation of interests and of human feelings cannot leave the reader indifferent.