Opinion: Is “Independence”, Lithuania’s national pride, safe or an easy target?

But that, alas, has gone largely unheeded amid the avalanche of praises to the law and security enforcement agencies that responded to a call from a wacky 66-year-old woman, apparently a booze-addict from the Lithuanian sticks, on supposed explosive under the vessel’s rudder.

As the emergency situation grabbed the headlines of Lithuanian media, all Lithuanian news outlets touted the country’s special law enforcement units’ timely and well-coordinated response to what turned out to be a fake emergency call.

The police demining unit arrived in just over five minutes, the firemen were right behind them and the divers plunged in the frigid January Baltic Sea’s water as quickly as they just could.

Wow! What bravery! What a sacrifice!

Clap, clap, clap.

In the aftermath of “the successful operation”, a senior Klaipėda LNG Terminal security official even admitted the emergency, following the fake call, was sort of a repetition of an emergency drill at the terminal last April, so, well, the whole brouhaha served the cause of the LNG terminal and vessel safety.

Not surprisingly, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius reacted to the disturbing news from Klaipėda calmly as a clam: “Without going into the details, the vessel is under triple security and, I’d say, getting into the object, physically undetected, is impossible.”

But is “Independence”, one of the country’s most heavily guarded objects, really impenetrable and proof to any scathe?

Now, after the emergency, I doubt it, frankly.

It appears, in fact, “Independence” is vulnerable from many standpoints and the security measures at it may be in breach of the strict European Commission regulations on safety of such objects.

The ensuing hearing at the Parliament’s National Security and Defence Committee (NSDC) turned up that the border guards at Klaipėda Seaport aren’t even authorized to use weapons in case someone refuses to obey the commands.

It has, in fact, happened last spring, when a Danish vessel’s shipmaster did not respond to the seaport services’ calls and took an erroneous course in the guarded marine territory.

What if a perpetrator decides to use such a “friendly” state’s ship for evil ends?

It surfaced during the hearing that, although the port is under surveillance of both state and private security entities, neither is entitled to monitor underwater activities.

Well, the subsea part of “Independence” is said to be “periodically” checked by divers from the police’s Public Safety Service, but… Oh, c’mon, does it suffice? Should not it be watched underneath 24 hours a day? 365 days a year?

If one were to flip through the pages of recent history, the country’s security enforcement agencies were promising a round-the-clock surveillance of the vessel’s underwater environment.

But it has not been lived up to, which has caught off guard some NSDC members and the public alike.

How come? How on earth can the strategic object be checked underwater just “periodically?”

Amid the claps on the timely response to the, thank God, false alert, the Committee hearing has disturbingly revealed that Lithuania had been admonished by the European Commission for failing to implement an EC directive on protection of its strategic security objects.

It did not mention, though, whether Klaipėda LNG terminal and „Independence“ were among them.

As law enforcement is said to be zeroing in on the apparently mentally disturbed villager – she seems to have nothing to do with the Russian secret services – and as the lawmakers have started mulling tighter laws tackling fake emergency calls, it remains unknown whether the Lithuanian authorities are immediately addressing the security shortcomings at “Independence” or will they keep feeding the public with the panegyric alone.

As it could be expected, the fake 112 call on “Independence” has triggered a wave of other fake emergency calls – on a mined school and an airport, to mention some of them.

Mounting fake emergency calls-related bills from the minesweepers, police, firemen and ambulance are, to be sure, a big issue, as each response to a fake call costs the taxpayers dozens of thousands of euros, according to a high-ranking police officer.

But the real scare is if a real perpetrator – not a crazed up elderly woman – ever succeeded in sneaking through the gaps of the security onto or under the guarantor of Lithuanian national security, “Independence.”

And let’s mind this: it cannot necessarily come in the human flesh – it can be both a high-tech air drone, and a submarine drone or any other high-tech gadget the plotter can come up with.

I just hope that Lithuanian law and security enforcement agencies will respond to the possible threats and the exposed flaws of the security at “Independence” as quick as they were quick to boast of the bravado after the mentally troubled villager placed a fake emergency call.

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