Inaugural infrastructure security conference gets underway in Bahrain

The inaugural Infrastructure Security Conference (Infrasec) got underway in Bahrain today (19 April), as more than 150 regional energy professionals and international experts gathered to address the most pertinent challenges in protecting critical energy assets.

The one-day pre-conference workshop and two-day conference is held under the patronage of His Excellency Dr. Abdul Hussain bin Ali Mirza, Bahrain’s Minister of Energy, and takes place until the 20th April at The Gulf Hotel in Manama.

With the threats to safeguarding the supply and distribution of energy and petroleum-related products growing by the day, experts assessed whether regional leaders in countries endowed with natural resources could benefit from better inter-regional cooperation to ward off potential attacks.

Dr Kevin Rosner, Senior Fellow with the Institute for Analysis of Global Security, and one of the speakers today, said not only GCC governments, but all countries can learn from one another on how to better maintain and secure their own critical infrastructure (CI).

“The problem has been that efforts to learn and reflect on CI protection have been fragmented at best with often those looking for information and contacts left at a loss of where to turn,” said Rosner.

“GCC governments should join with others to better understand the re-emergence of conventional attacks and exploitation of natural resources as a mechanism and weapon for conducting hybrid warfare.”

Talking about asymmetric warfare, Rosner warned that hostile groups seeking to undermine infrastructure are already studying how to best bring it down: “Leon Trotsky probably said it best: ‘you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you,’” added Rosner. “In short, there is no place to hide in this business and ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.”

Keith Tupman, Former Principal Security Advisor at the Kuwait Oil Company, is among the speakers on the second day of Infrasec. He agreed a unified front from regional stakeholders is key to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure and deter would-be attackers.

“The obvious way to improve deterrence is to present a unified front at both national and regional levels,” said Tupman, who will speak about the interoperability of maritime security assets and aerial surveillance assets in sea-facing oil and gas environments

“Regular national and regional inter-agency top-table discussions and exercises will go a long way towards advertising the fact that regional oil and gas majors are taking a proactive interest in protecting their own and collective critical infrastructure.”

Organised by Messe Frankfurt Middle East, Infrasec is supported by Intersec, the world’s largest trade show for safety, security and fire protection; Bahrain’s National Oil and Gas Authority; and the Bahrain National Gas Company (Banagas).

Ahmed Pauwels, CEO of Messe Frankfurt Middle East, said: “The dependence on energy supply throughout the Middle East makes it imperative to ensure the safe and secure distribution of these resources to keep economies running. Infrasec addresses these issues head-on, bringing together leading international security experts and thought leaders with regional stakeholders and energy-related decision makers.”

Other headline speakers at Infrasec include H.E. Khaled Al Mansouri, President of the International Council at the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), Abdulrahman Al Manea, Security Operations Manager and Cyber Security Expert at Saudi Aramco; Adel Ahmed Al Gaoud, Security Manager at the Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO), Bahrain; and Halim Boudiaf, Former Security Manager at ConocoPhillips, Algeria.

Infrasec also features an exhibition showcasing the latest innovations and solutions in critical infrastructure perimeter security, physical security, information and cybersecurity, and commercial security.