Underwater Demolition Teams blow up Nigerian Oil Infrastructure

RIMPAC 2012

120713-N-GG400-022 MAMALA BAY UNDERWATER DEMOLITION RANGE, Hawaii (July 13, 2012) Navy Diver 2nd Class Josh Underwood, left, assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (NMDSU) 1, and Leading Seaman Sam Peters, assigned to the Australian Clearance Diving Team, set an explosive charge during the underwater demolition training portion of RIMPAC 2012. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in the RIMPAC exercise from June 29 to Aug. 3, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jumar T. Balacy/Released)

A mysterious group called the Niger Delta Avengers has launched a series of strikes directed against underwater oil pipelines, putting a significant dent in Nigeria’s output of oil and appearing to tip the government into a economic recession.  The attacks, directed against Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, and an Italian company called Eni SpA, are conducted by teams that descend underwater using diving equipment before employing explosive charges on the pipelines.  Demonstrating a level of sophistication beyond previous Nigerian militants, be they MEND or Boko Haram, the identity of these underwater demolition teams remains a mystery.

Douw Steyn is the author of Iron Fist from the Sea a book about the history of his former unit, South Africa’s 4 Recce which specialized in maritime special operations including attack diving.  Steyn told SOFREP, “The divers that do this operation are highly skilled and trained in the military or by instructors that left the military and know how to train individuals to became attack divers.”  Attack diving, a specialized skill employed by 4 Recce could be compared to the underwater demolition operations that Navy SEALs are trained for.

Underwater demolitions are complicated in nature due difficulties in working in a sub-surface environment, and require long hours of training and rehearsals, as well as mission planning, and reconnaissance.  “The target information is the most important information to have,” Steyn said “because with that information, you do your planning on what type of explosives, how many explosives and the depth of the charges. It also give you the specific place to put the bombs/mines, and of the weaknesses of the target the other point that will be planned in detail is the time delay on the mines, this is determined by the surroundings and means of transport the attackers are using [such as] small craft, submarines, and inflatables.”

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