The commander in chief of Norway’s armed forces was called upon by Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority on Tuesday to address leaders of the Norwegian oil and gas industry, as they gathered for an annual conference in Stavanger. He acknowledged that Norway and its offshore installations are now sabotage targets, but he offered some reassuring words.
“‘Keep calm and carry on,’ said the English during the Second World War,” Defense Chief Eirik Kristoffersen told his audience via video link, “and I think that’s important for us now also.” It can help deal with “all the unease we’re facing, and sort it out,” Kristoffersen said.
He could confirm how NATO allies have joined Norwegian defense forces in partrolling international waters in the southern Barents Sea. The British frigate HMS Northumberland and the logistics vessel RFA Tiderace recently joined the Norwegian frigate KNM Thor Heyerdahl on patrol, all the while shadowed by Russian naval vessels. Norwegian coast guard vessels and frigates have also been on patrol in the North- and Norwegian Seas, along with other British, German and American vessels, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
The Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) itself has stressed how the Norwegian government has “initiated measures to strengthen emergency preparedness for oil industry infrastructure, onshore plants and facilities on Norway’s continental shelf.” The measures come amidst observations of unidentified drones flying close to both offshore and mainland petroleum plants, and concern that pipelines can also be targets of sabotage.
“Russia’s war against Ukraine has led to increased attention being paid to the threat picture for the petroleum sector, energy security in Europe and the importance of secure operations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS),” PSA stated in a “security position” statement late last week. The PSA urged “increased vigilance by all operators and vessel owners” in Norwegian waters, while it has “close dialogue” with both companies and “relevant government agencies.”
The unidentified drones, PSA noted, “can increase risk” with regard to helicopter traffic to and from the platforms, “ignition source control” close to “explosion-hazard areas,” potential collisions or “dropped objects” from the drones and even “deliberate attacks.”
Officials at the PSA, which has regulatory responsibility for safety and security in the petroleum sector, stressed that all drone cases are under investigation by the Norwegian police. Oil and gas companies themselves are “basically responsible” for the security of their facilities, PSA noted in a statement late last week, because “they have the necessary knowledge and resources to exercise this responsibility.
“When threats are faced or in the event of deliberate attacks,” PSA added, “the government is responsible for taking measures to safeguard facilities” on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.
That’s where the defense forces come in, with Kristoffersen acknowledging that “all of Europe” has become “more dependent on Norwegian energy and gas, and wants to end its dependency on Russian energy. That makes Norway much more important for Europe, and also more important for Russia.”
He stressed that there are no “direct threats” against Norway but the situation has affected Norway’s status as a target: “We must be aware that this can be a means of creating even greater uncertainty,” Kristoffersen said. “If there’s doubt about our ability to deliver energy to Europe, it can be difficult for European countries.” He tends to think that if there is a state agency behind all the recent drones, “the goal is to create uncertainty and unease. That demands us to keep calm.”