Coast Guard may be needed to provide oil platform
security and training after U.S. troops leave Iraq
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Assistant Editor
Protect and Train
which was $61 billion in 2008,
according to an Oil Ministry
The platforms are offshore
because Iraq does not have deep
enough ports to allow entry of oil
supertankers, which can carry
more than 300,000 tons of oil and
be more than a quarter-mile long.
Oil is pipelined out to the platforms so the supertankers can fill
“It’s like gas stations sitting out
in the middle of the water,” said
Capt. Douglas Heugel, section
chief of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia. “As the oil platforms go, so does the Iraq economy.”
He said security threats for the platforms go in
cycles. In the fall, threat levels are lower because the
waters are rough and not ideal for the smaller boats
that might be more likely to launch an attack, he said.
Boat activity picks up during the summer because of
Regardless, Heugel said, “We run the same security
There has been one deadly incident for the service
during these operations. In April 2004, three small boats
exploded near an oil tanker in an apparent suicide
attack, killing Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan
There is a 1.5-mile security zone around the platforms
that boats are not allowed to enter, and violations typically involve fishing boats. Most of the recent threats to the
oil platforms have come from the Iranian Republic Guard.
“It’s not uncommon to have those boats come real
close to you. You can see the rocket launchers. It’s more
of a cat-and-mouse game,” Heugel said.
When a boat enters the security zone, a Coast Guard
patrol boat blasts its horns and fires off flares to notify
the boat that it has crossed the line.
A Coast Guard force in Iraq guards the waters around two offshore oil platforms and is training Iraqis to eventually take over
■ The Coast Guard has maintained a fleet of six 110-foot patrol
boats in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
■ There are approximately 260 Coast Guard personnel in Iraq.
■ There has been one deadly incident for the service during
The Coast Guard’s presence in Iraq could last
long after U.S. troops are withdrawn from the
region, said Commandant Adm. Thad Allen.
“While the ground part of that settles out and we
kind of stabilize that and we withdraw and the Iraqis
take over, I think it’s going to [take] a much longer
period of time for things to stabilize over water,” Allen
told an audience at the Surface Navy Association’s 21st
National Symposium Jan. 13.
He later acknowledged to Seapower that the “length
and sufficiency of the resources is a question for the
regional combatant commander.
“The oil terminals are critical infrastructure necessary for Iraq’s long-term economic health; the water is
open and accessible from any direction; and there is a
large amount of legitimate vessel traffic in the immediate vicinity, making it very difficult to sort out the bad
from the good,” Allen said. “All this combines to create a unique security challenge.”
The service has maintained a fleet of six 110-foot
patrol boats in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. They are primarily tasked with guarding
two offshore oil platforms — Al Bashrah Oil Terminal
and Khawr al Amaya Oil Terminal — that account for
more than 95 percent of the country’s oil income,