Pemba is prepared for potential attacks

Pemba Port, Mozambique. Credit: Africa Ports

The Port of Pemba has assured stakeholders that it has the necessary security measures in place to protect its facilities. Located in the far north of Mozambique, Pemba is the main port for the Cabo Delgado province, which is rapidly becoming Mozambique’s offshore oil and gas exploration hub. There has also been a spate of brutal attacks by an extremist Islamic group in the area, believed partly to be in opposition to the gas projects.

The port has been granted an International Maritime Organization (IMO) International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which aims to structure the threat assessment and set appropriate security measures for vessels and port terminals to counter piracy, unauthorised access, and physical attacks on its facilities, Arnaldo Manjate from Mozambique’s state-owned ports and railways company CFM told the governor of Cabo Delgado province, Júlio Parruque, and the port facility managers and agencies.

According to Stratford Worldview, unknown assailants have attacked dozens of villages and some government positions in Cabo Delgado since 2017. “The crude tactics are often the same: militants swarm a village and shoot or behead residents unable to flee quickly enough, before setting fire to homes and businesses.”

The attackers are called “al Shabaab” and “Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Hamo” by locals and are believed to have international jihadist connections. Some of the arrested suspects have said they are opposed to the gas drilling, the Environmental Justice reports.

In June 2017, Italian oil and gas company ENI committed to investing USD10 billion to the construction of Coral South, a floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) platform in the Rovuma Basin off the coast of Mozambique.

In June 2019, Mozambique LNG (led by US-based Anadarko) committed USD20 billion to developing its gas reserve in offshore area 1, representing about 75 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. In December 2019, Rovuma LNG (led by ExxonMobil and ENI) is expected to commit USD30 billion to develop the same.

In February, an Anadarko caravan was targeted in two attacks, which resulted in one dead and six injured. These were the first known attacks targeting companies involved in gas projects in the Rovuma Basin since the outbreak of armed violence in Cabo Delgado.

Decades of poverty and the sudden arrival of fossil fuel companies in the region make for a “potential powder keg”, says Eric Morier-Genoud, lecturer in African history at the Queen’s University Belfast.