Iraq bans foreign security contractors from oil fields

06 March 2012

Iraq’s Oil Police will take over old field security operations

Iraq’s Oil Ministry has issued a directive banning the use of private security contractors at the 12 fields being developed by international oil companies across the country.

The instruction was sent to all the international oil companies and their subcontractors in a 29 February memo seen by MEED.

Iraq security forces
Defence Ministry 
Iraq Army200,000
Training and support68,000
Air force5,053
Navy3,650
Army Air Corps2,400
Total279,103
Source: Sigir

The letter was sent from South Oil Company (SOC), one of four oil sector operating companies owned by the Oil Ministry and signed by its director general, Faisal Wadi.

“HE Minister of Oil instructed: All the security services related to the drilling contracts of the subcontractors who are contracting with the lead contractors for oil fields’ development within the licensing contracts should be cancelled and it will never be accepted from now on,” says the document.

Iraq security
Counter terrorism force4,200
Iraq total933,103
Source: Sigir

The contractors will be replaced by Iraq’s own Oil Police Directorate, which “will provide the necessary protection”, the document adds.

According to an October report from the US’ Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (Sigir), the vulnerability of Iraq’s oil and gas infrastructure remains a concern. In early October, two explosions damaged one of the primary southern pipelines, briefly halting production at the Rumaila oil field, Iraq’s largest-producing field, which is being developed by a consortium of the UK’s BP and China National Petroleum Corporation.

“As the GOI and its international partners modernise and expand Iraq’s oil and gas infrastructure in the coming years, the challenges faced by MOI’s [Interior Ministry’s] 31,000-strong Oil Police force in securing the country’s far-flung facilities will multiply,” the Sigir report states.

Interior Ministry
Iraqi Police325,000
Facilities protection95,000
Training and support89,800
Border enforcement60,000
Iraqi Federal Police45,000
Oil Police35,000
Total649,800
Source: Sigir

Nonetheless, Baghdad has been keen to impose tough restrictions on private security companies following the departure of US troops at the end of 2011. The Interior Ministry has described the situation as a “giant army of these companies on the streets with their weapons”.

The government submitted a bill to parliament in early February to impose new restrictions on the number of contractors operating in Iraq. There are currently 109 registered security companies in Iraq, employing more than 35,000 contractors guarding government officials, embassies and oil infrastructure.

Private Security Contractors
Total35,000
Source: Sigir

According to one source in Iraq, the firms have already complained to the Oil Ministry and the Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs, Hussain al-Shahristani.

“It is unenforceable. There are so many security challenges that it won’t stand. There have already been representations to Al-Shahristani,” says the source. 

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