Al Qaeda has urged jihadists to attack oil tankers in two maritime hotspots that supply Australia with up to 70 per cent of its petrol, raising a concern over the nation's near-complete reliance on imported fuel.
|Tanker British Fidelity at Port Adelaide. Photo: Trevor Powell|
In the first issue of its English language propaganda magazine Resurgence, the terror group identifies the "energy umbilical cord" sustaining western economies and describes fuel pipelines and shipping lanes as the "Achilles heel of western economies dependent on oil from the Muslim world".
The magazine includes a map of shipping "choke points" it says are ripe for sabotage and a diagram of the fuel routes between the Persian Gulf, Singapore and Australia.
In September, Al Qaeda-aligned militants attempted to hijack a Pakistani frigate and use it to target US Navy vessels in the Indian Ocean.
Al Qaeda has received less attention since the emergence of Islamic State but its new focus on the Indian Ocean was on Friday described as "chilling" by the motoring organisation NRMA, which, along with AGL and Senator John Madigan, is campaigning against what it describes as Australia's declining energy security.
With the closure of Caltex's Kurnell refinery and Shell's Clyde refinery in Sydney and planned closures by BP in Brisbane, Australia now imports 91 per cent of its petrol and diesel – up from 60 per cent in 2000.
One major refinery in Singapore alone is responsible for producing half the fuel consumed in Australia.
NRMA director Graham Blight raised the Al Qaeda threat during an address to the Biofuels Association on Friday.
He told Fairfax Media: "It's chilling stuff, absolutely chilling stuff."
He said a significant supply cut precipitated by terrorism or piracy would result in Australian supermarket shelves emptying within seven days and petrol bowsers being dry within three days. Hospital supplies would also go undelivered within days, he said.
There were diesel shortages in Western Australia recently as a result of a ship being turned back over quality issues of its cargo.
The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics calculates that Australia has 12 days of diesel stock but aviation fuel stocks are said to be even lower.
Australia is the only developed country without either mandated industry stockholdings, government-owned stockholdings or government control over any or some of its oil and fuel infrastructure.
"We are at 91 per cent imports and there is no government policy to stop us becoming 100 per cent," Mr Blight said.
The Maritime Union of Australia has expressed concern about energy security since refinery closures affected local MUA–crewed oil tankers.
"This terrorist threat raises fundamental questions of national security and sovereign risk for some of our biggest industries, let alone our motorists' right to expect a constant supply of fuel at a reasonable price," MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.
The federal government has called for submissions to its energy green paper which will investigate energy security.
A spokeswoman for Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the fuel supply chain was in a "strong position".
"Australia's liquid fuel is supplied by diverse supply chains to support the capacity of the market to maintain reliable supply.
"The government undertakes regular assessments of supply risks including an assessment of the adequate, reliable and competitively priced delivery of Australia's liquid fuel, gas and electricity."
Original Age story here.