Sunset over ABOT

15 05 2010

Approximately 12 miles off the coast of Iraq lie the Al Basrah Oil Terminal, or ABOT (say it like “Eh Bot”) and its smaller sister terminal,the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal, or KAAOT (say it like “Kay Ought”) . Together, they form one of the primary sources of oil income for Iraq. Four Supertankers can refuel at once at ABOT, a process which can take several days, with dozens of tankers lining up to wait their turn.

ABOT is a singularly ugly, miserable place to be. Hot, filthy, and insect ridden. Waste oil is washed from the decks directly into the gulf waters, and the oil slick surrounding the terminal is perpetual. Bullet holes from the SEAL operation which took over the terminal at the outset of the war still riddle the terminal.

US Service members are currently stationed on ABOT as part of our effort to rebuild and protect Iraq during its post-liberation vulnerability. A team of Sailors, some deployed there for a year or more, live in reconditioned shipping containers, stacked up into a sort of neighborhood. Living conditions of the Military are actually not bad, considering, with cold A/C, email,clean  beds, a galley, a small gym, etc. Anything the military could do to make conditions livable has been done. Barring the fact that it’s still on a filthy, dangerous oil terminal.

This photo is a sunset over the command center for the defense of ABOT and KAAOT, at one extreme end of ABOT.

Several ships, of various types, surround ABOT and are on constant patrol protecting it from anything and everything. The Iranian, Iraqi, and US Navies all operate within sight of each other and tensions can get high.

When three Navies, billions of dollars in resources, tankers from nations the world over, and two international borders are all so close that they can nearly throw rocks at each other in the 100 degree and up weather, mistakes can not be made. The consequences could be disastrous. Thanks to the professionalism, perseverance, and dogged determination of these Sailors, mistakes don’t happen.

For years now, these Sailors have stood this watch. Few have heard about them and what they do here on ABOT. Think of them, please next time you put gas in your tank. They were most likely there when that gas was pumped into the tanker that brought it to you.

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