x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Protection agency to unveil contracts

The agency charged with thwarting attacks on the nation's strategic assets such as oil rigs and power stations is about to embark on the next phase of an expansion programme.

UAE armed forces patrol territorial waters in an Interceptor. The CNIA is finalising several contracts with global defence firms.
UAE armed forces patrol territorial waters in an Interceptor. The CNIA is finalising several contracts with global defence firms.

The agency charged with thwarting attacks on the nation's strategic assets such as oil rigs and power stations is about to embark on the next phase of an expansion programme. An official from the Critical National Infrastructure Authority (CNIA) said it was finalising several contracts with global security and defence companies and would announce a number of deals this week at the International Security National Resilience Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi.

"There are a lot of deals that have been agreed with different companies," said Staff Col Ishaq Mohamed al Besher, the executive manager of the operations sector at the CNIA. "We are deciding which ones to announce." He declined to say what technologies the CNIA planned to invest in. Its previous investments have included special weapons and tactics (SWAT) training, security fencing, marine barriers and interceptor boats.

The authority might even consider miniature, roving robotic surveillance systems and unmanned aerial vehicles in the future, Col al Besher said. Thales, a French defence electronics company, sees opportunities in providing security systems and powerful software to knit together sensors and security response measures, said Olivier Badard, the president for the company's Middle East operations. "We're looking at the mandate of CNIA," he said. "If there's a project in Abu Dhabi, it is clear we would be interested."

The CNIA oversees 26 strategic assets such as power and water stations and oil and gas facilities. It has already signed contracts worth several billion dirhams, including for a broad package of surveillance systems and training from Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS), interceptor boats from Abu Dhabi Ship Building and Yonca Onuk of Turkey, and marine barriers from Whisprwave. Its largest contracts were awarded to AIS and included high-tech cameras, gates and fencing, Col al Besher said. Other deals with the Abu Dhabi-based company included specialist training, such as qualifying CNIA's SWAT teams, according to Janes, the defence publication, and training to equip the CNIA with controllers and operators of telecommunications systems.

The CNIA also contracted for the installation of marine barriers at Umm al Nar Desalination Plant in Abu Dhabi by Whisprwave, which is based in New Jersey and is aligned with Abu Dhabi's International Golden Group, a holding company with several defence and security contracts in the UAE. The company installed temporary, floating security barriers off the Emirates Palace during a visit by the Abu Dhabi Royal Family and GCC heads of state, officials said.

The CNIA, active in Abu Dhabi, is expected to increase its spending once it is given authority by federal law to extend its infrastructure protection across all seven emirates. "We are waiting for the higher authorities to give us an order to take over (other facilities)," Col el Besher said. "Then we will implement what we have done in Abu Dhabi in all the whole of the emirates." CNIA has already taken control of more than 70 vessels from the Abu Dhabi Coast Guard and Marine Police, and it placed a Dh460m contract for 34 interceptor vessels in February last year.

The boats are made of lightweight composite materials and capable of speeds of more than 50 knots. They are designed to "interdict potential threats in the UAE's maritime zone", the CNIA said. Air surveillance of the country's important facilities could take place in the future, Col al Besher said. "It is a part of reconnaissance and protecting national infrastructure, and could be one of the sources we can use for controlling site or doing patrolling missions," he said.

Col al Besher said the CNIA might also be interested in other emerging security tools such as small, roving robots designed to travel on land and under water. "The products coming nowadays are a benefit for everybody, but it should include a feasibility study on how, where and when we can use it," he said. * with additional reporting by Chris Stanton @Email:igale@thenational.ae