Visa Process for Oil Expats to be Streamlined

Iraq’s oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, has addressed some of the complaints by oil majors about bureaucracy hampering their efforts to bring staff and equipment into the country, according to a report from Reuters.

Getting visas for oil industry professionals entering Iraq to work on oilfield development contracts ranks as a major hassle facing oil companies as they start work.

"This obstacle has been overcome with the cooperation of the Ministry of Interior, which thankfully has agreed to issue visas at the Iraqi airports to employees working on the contracts to develop the fields," Minister Hussain Shahristani said.

Shahristani said other problems, such as inadequate ports, decrepit roads and crumbling bridges, would not be overcome rapidly and oil majors would have to find a way to manage.

"It is expected there will be problems, especially as we know that Iraqi infrastructure like roads, bridges, ports, railways, airports and other things are not as they need to be at the current time," he said in a news conference in Baghdad.

Iraq awarded a series of massive oilfield development contracts last year to majors such as Shell and BP that could quadruple its output capacity to 12 million barrels per day within seven years.

Those output levels would rival top producer Saudi and give Iraq the billions it needs to rebuild after decades of war, sanctions and neglect.

Sabotage and a lack of investment since the 2003 US-led invasion has further degraded the infrastructure and hundreds of billions of dollars are needed for housing, the power grid, water and sewage plants and other sectors.

As the projects get off the ground, inadequate dock space at Umm Qasr, the country's main port, bureaucratic impediments to securing visas, customs clearance, and corruption have become tops complaints of oil executives.

Shahristani said the problem of the ports would be addressed by opening up new land border crossings.

"We have started discussing the opening of new border posts specifically for oil equipment in order not to affect the functioning of the Iraqi ports and not to delay our projects due to the capabilities of Iraqi ports," Shahristani said.

(Source: Reuters)

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