Libya Trains Thousands of Rebels to Guard Oil Facilities

Libya is training former rebels to protect oil installations across the North African nation, the head of the country’s state oil company said.

The ministry of defense is training 10,339 citizens and militiamen who took part in the revolt that ousted the regime of Muammar Qaddafi last year, National Oil Corp. Chairman Nuri Berruien said yesterday in a telephone interview in the capital, Tripoli. They will join an existing force of 2,500 security workers by the end of the year, he said.

“All our terminals and fields are secure but there are some skirmishes in remote areas,” Berruien said. “Traveling between fields can be complicated.”

Libya, holder of Africa’s biggest crude reserves, has been working to boost oil output after last year’s rebellion led to a drop in production to as little as 45,000 barrels a day from 1.6 million barrels previously, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Output has returned to just under the pre-conflict level, Oil Minister Abdul-Rahman Ben Yezza said on Sept. 24 at a conference in Tripoli.

“Protecting the petroleum installations is a national priority, as our economy depends on it,” Sadeeq Mabruk Al Obeidi, the deputy defense minister, said at a news conference in Tripoli today.

Ministry Spending

The ministry has spent 150 million dinars ($120 million) in the last eight months to reform border patrol units and train guards for energy installations, he said. “We are increasing our border patrol battalions from four to 12 and the border guards unit will be an independent body reporting directly to the minister of defense, and not the chief of staff,” he said.

The country’s ruling authority issued a decree in May that banned overseas security companies from entering the country. As of late June, the government was still considering alternative ways of providing security for embassies and foreign companies and hadn’t enforced the decree, according to a government spokesman, Nasser Al Manaa.

“We cannot expect the guards to have the technical expertise of a refinery or well-head operations,” Felix Castaneda, general manager for Repsol YPF SA in Libya, said last week.

Oil companies may be reluctant to use local services, according to Optimal Risk, a U.K. provider of security to oil companies in Libya that is also involved in the training program being financed by the state-owned oil company.

“I have an international oil company client in Murzuq and I doubt they will want to give up our services,” Robert Shaw, a director at Optimal Risk, said yesterday by phone. Many of the local workers only speak Arabic because foreign language tuition was banned under Qaddafi, he said.

Security companies continue to charge high fees in Libya, even though the country’s security has improved, Shaw said.

“Some of the foreign security companies are exaggerating the risks and charging very high fees to their clients as a result,” he said. “We are not in a war zone.”

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