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Petty Officer 2nd Class August Klotz, from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Wrangell, uses a loud-speaker warning system to warn a fishing trawler that sailed into a protective zone around the Iraqi Khawr al Amaya Oil Terminal in the Persian Gulf. The system contains several warning messages in Arabic.
Petty Officer 2nd Class August Klotz, from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Wrangell, uses a loud-speaker warning system to warn a fishing trawler that sailed into a protective zone around the Iraqi Khawr al Amaya Oil Terminal in the Persian Gulf. The system contains several warning messages in Arabic. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)
Petty Officer 2nd Class August Klotz, from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Wrangell, uses a loud-speaker warning system to warn a fishing trawler that sailed into a protective zone around the Iraqi Khawr al Amaya Oil Terminal in the Persian Gulf. The system contains several warning messages in Arabic.
Petty Officer 2nd Class August Klotz, from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Wrangell, uses a loud-speaker warning system to warn a fishing trawler that sailed into a protective zone around the Iraqi Khawr al Amaya Oil Terminal in the Persian Gulf. The system contains several warning messages in Arabic. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)
The oil tanker Tiara Monrovia takes on a load of roughly two million barrels of crude oil Wednesday from the Iraqi Al Basra Oil Terminal, one of two in the Persian Gulf protected by U.S., coalition and Iraqi navies. The terminals provide about 85 percent of Iraqi's revenue, and bring in some $11,000 a second.
The oil tanker Tiara Monrovia takes on a load of roughly two million barrels of crude oil Wednesday from the Iraqi Al Basra Oil Terminal, one of two in the Persian Gulf protected by U.S., coalition and Iraqi navies. The terminals provide about 85 percent of Iraqi's revenue, and bring in some $11,000 a second. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

IN THE PERSIAN GULF — A Ukrainian cargo ship that inadvertently sailed into protected waters around Iraqi oil platforms in the Persian Gulf ignited a rapid security crackdown Wednesday morning, displaying some of the measures coalition forces take to protect the platforms.

Ships rushed to intercept the cargo vessel.

A 14-sailor boarding team from the Royal Australian Navy frigate Toowoomba spent three hours searching the 100-meter cargo ship, ensuring the crew’s documents were accurate, and trying to figure out why the vessel didn’t heed warnings to stay out of the terminal’s protective circle.

The Ukrainian crew told sailors they were unaware of the security restraints in that area.

Wednesday’s incident is one of many scenarios coalition and Iraqi forces have encountered as they protect the two oil platforms about 60 miles from Iraq, said Navy Capt. Jeff Harbeson, commander of Destroyer Squadron 50 and the combined task group securing the platforms and training Iraqis to take over the duties.

“We’re out here to provide security and stability to the Iraqi terminals, protect the infrastructure of [Al Basra Oil Terminal and Khawr al Amaya Oil Terminal], which is very important in helping this growing democracy,” Harbeson said.

The efforts have dramatically improved security in the nearly three years that a translator, Ali, has been working in the gulf.

“Things are getting better, much much better and improving every day,” Ali said.

“The fishermen are happy because of the coalition forces. The [piracy] is no more. Well, almost no more. The smuggling of people is almost no more.”

The task is dubbed Maritime Security Operations, MSO for short, and entails quashing piracy, stopping the smuggling of people and weapons, protecting fishermen and protecting the platforms, which provide about 85 percent of Iraq’s revenue, at roughly $11,000 per second.

Wednesday’s incident highlighted the tight working relationship among the coalition partners, said Jaimie Hatcher, commanding officer of the Toowoomba, an Anzac-class frigate named after an Australian city.

“The message this gives me … is there is a great deal of trust between the coalition,” Hatcher said.

In Um Qasr, the British-run Naval Activity Transition Team trains Iraqi sailors on shore-based knowledge before they move south to the oil platforms and ships to learn the sea-based tactics, Harbeson said.

U.S. naval sailors from Mobile Security Squadrons teach security measures to Iraqi marines.

“It’s rather amazing,” said Hatcher, who is on his third tour in the gulf.

“The first two times, we were fighting the Iraqis, trying to destroy their [forces]. This time we’re helping to put them back together.”

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