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 Army 200,000
Training and support 68,000
Air force 5,053
Navy 3,650
Army Air Corps 2,400
Total 279,103
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 force 4,200
Iraq total 933,103
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 Police 325,000
Facilities protection 95,000
Training and support 89,800
Border enforcement 60,000
Iraqi Federal Police 45,000
Oil Police 35,000
Total 649,800
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
Total 35,000
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.