Considering the Middle East is no stranger to geopolitical tensions that can lead to attacks of varying degrees, Israel has taken steps to protect its offshore gas fields by purchasing three more vessels. The move comes amid ongoing maritime boundary disputes with neighboring Lebanon, which claims waters holding the giant Leviathan gas field are in its territory. Lebanon is preparing to award 10 offshore blocks as part of its first licensing round. The bidding process, which has experienced delays due to issues with decrees relating to the delineation of offshore blocks and the model E&P agreement, is under way, with awards expected sometime in February 2014. If an agreement between the two nations isn’t reached, there could be trouble in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel contracted Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to supply its navy with three Super Dvora-class Mark III fast patrol craft. The 25-m (90-ft) vessels, designed to operate in shallow water, have a flexible armament and a cruising range of 1,000 nautical miles and can reach a maximum speed of 83 km/h (45 knots), according to IAI. The company said in a news release, “The boat is used for patrol and other operations, protection of Israel's coasts and strategic assets at sea and along all of its coasts, prevention of terrorist activities and infiltration, as well as preventing smuggling and all illegal activity in Israel's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and more.” Israel intends to use the vessels to protect offshore gas fields from attack, UPI reported this month. “The land boundary remains disputed, and for years there have been clashes between Israeli forces and Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement, which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006,” UPI said. “Hezbollah, heavily armed with Iranian and Syrian missiles capable of hitting Israeli offshore facilities, has vowed it will strike Israel if it violates waters claimed by Beirut.” Amit Mor, CEO and co-owner of Eco Energy, spoke about strategic risks in the area during a recent visit to Houston. Speaking during the Bureau of Economic Geology’s Center for Energy Economics’ Think Day on Sept. 30, Mor pointed out vulnerabilities in the area, specifically in the Tamar field. The field, operated by Noble Energy, produces from five wells about 90 km (56 miles) offshore Israel connected by a 150-km (93-mile) long subsea tieback. He called the platform, which produces gas that Israel depends heavily on, a “sitting duck.” Hopefully, the powers that be – whether it is the United Nations Security Council, those directly involved in the dispute, or a third-party mediator – will devise a plan that is acceptable to all involved. With the Eastern Mediterranean’s Levant basin potentially holding undiscovered resources of 3.7 Tcm (122 Tcf) of gas and 1.7 Bbbl of oil, based on estimates from the US Geological Survey, there could be plenty of resources to spread around. Maybe energy will be the one area in which Lebanon and Israel can peacefully co-exist, or maybe this is just wishful thinking. The two countries have been negotiating in good faith, however, with hopes of living side by side in peace and security, US President Barack Obama said following a recent bilateral meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The US’ role is to help facilitate, not dictate, he said. The US created maps in December 2012 based on versions of Israel and Lebanon’s maritime economic zones that allowed each country to explore for gas, according to the International Business Times. But no agreements have been reached to date. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at vaddison@hartenergy.com.