Oct 182014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2004/08/04KUWAIT2542.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
04KUWAIT2542
2004-08-10 12:22
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Kuwait

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 002542

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ARP, NEA/NGA SA/INS, DRL/PHD, DRL/ILA, G/TIP
STATE FOR CA/OCS/ACS/NESA, M/P FOR JAY ANANIA
MANILA FOR PAUL O’FRIEL
NEW DELHI FOR LAUREN HOLT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/10/2014
TAGS: ELAB MOPS PREL PHUM ETRD EAID KU IZ IN RP
SUBJECT: IRAQ TRAVEL BAN: IMPACT ON US MILITARY CONTRACTORS

REF: A. KUWAIT 2496
¶B. KUWAIT 2425
¶C. KUWAIT 2006
¶D. KUWAIT 1834
¶E. KUWAIT 1835
¶F. KUWAIT 1683
¶G. ANKARA 4340
¶H. ISTANBUL 1249

Classified By: CDA Matthew Tueller, Reasons 1.4 (a) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY. Econoff spoke on August 10 with the two
major US military contractors transporting supplies for US
operations in Iraq, to see how the travel ban preventing
Indian and Filipino workers from entering Iraq is affecting
their operations. Altanmia, which holds the Defense Energy
Support Center contract for shipping humanitarian fuel to
Iraq, has been largely unaffected by the ban, with only one
convoy turned around at the border. But the operations of
the prime vendor for supplying water and food to U.S. forces
in Iraq, the Public Warehousing Company (PWC), have been
dramatically affected, with only about 25 percent of PWC’s
supplies getting through the Kuwait-Iraq border. PWC says
that if the Government of the Philippines’ ban were lifted,
it could “limp along,” but if the ban is maintained, the
long-term consequences will be serious. PWC is having
difficulty finding replacement workers, with the governments
of Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Kenya now prohibiting
their nationals from working in Iraq. Although PWC says
that realistically, the ban would have to drag on for months
before they would take the drastic step of firing their
Indian and Filipino workers, the company has intimated to the
Indian and Philippines embassies that PWC will have to do so
sooner rather than later because they cannot afford to pay
people who cannot do their jobs. END SUMMARY.

¶2. (C) Econoff spoke on August 10 with the two major US
military contractors transporting supplies for US operations
in Iraq, to get a sense of how the travel ban preventing
Indian and Filipino workers from entering Iraq (Refs A and
B) is affecting their operations. Altanmia General Manager
Waleed Al-Humaidhi (please protect), whose company holds the
Defense Energy Support Center contract for shipping
humanitarian fuel to Iraq, reports that Altanmia has been
largely unaffected by the ban, with only one convoy turned
around at the border. According to him, Altanmia began
replacing its Indian drivers with other nationals after the
Government of India imposed its first Iraq travel ban in
May/June (Refs C-F), and thus reduced the company’s
previously significant dependence on Indian labor. The ban’s
impact has been further lessened thanks to a reduction in the
number of fuel convoys from four or five per day to one
convoy per day, which has subsequently reduced the number of
Altanmia drivers required to man the convoys.

¶3. (C) By contrast, the ban has dramatically affected the
operations of the Public Warehousing Company (PWC), the prime
vendor for supplying water and food to U.S. forces in Iraq.
Human Resources Manager Mark Von Weethe (please protect
throughout) estimates that on average, only about 25 percent
of PWC’s supplies are currently getting through the
Kuwait-Iraq border. In his words, the military border
crossing point (Navistar) is “starting to resemble a large
parking lot.” Although he is unsure when PWC will have to
stop loading trucks, he warns that it will be “soon.”

¶4. (C) Unlike Altanmia, PWC is highly dependent on Indians
and Filipinos, with approximately 175 Indian and 175 Filipino
drivers employed in Kuwait and an additional 150 Filipinos
under contract but waiting in Manila for the travel ban to be
lifted (like Altanmia, however, PWC also started diversifying
its workforce away from Indians after the first travel ban).
Von Weethe is more concerned about the effects of the
Philippines’ ban than India’s, saying that Filipinos are
PWC’s first choice of workers in terms of quality, attitude,
and English language skills. If the Government of the
Philippines’ ban were lifted, he says, PWC could “limp
along;” but if the ban is maintained, the long-term
consequences for PWC will be serious.

¶5. (C) Von Weethe reported that PWC is having a difficult
time finding replacement workers. Although the company has
had a fair degree of success with hiring Turkish drivers, the
recent decision by a Turkish trucking companies’ association
to call for a ban on Turkish trucks in Iraq renders their
status uncertain (Refs G and H) . Further complicating
matters, Von Weethe says that the governments of Thailand,
Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Kenya have all prohibited their
nationals from working in Iraq; Bangladesh is the only
subcontinent country whose drivers are still available. PWC
has explored the possibility of hiring Eastern Europeans, but
has found that to be a largely unattractive option: it would
require a significant wage increase for drivers; Bulgaria is
balking because of the kidnapping and reported killing of its
nationals; and Russians are excluded by a US military ban.
PWC is now looking into the possibility of employing Mexican
drivers.

¶6. (C) When asked if there were a point at which PWC would
have to fire its Indian and Filipino workers, Von Weethe said
that realistically, the ban would have to drag on for months
to require such a drastic step be taken (especially with
regard to the Filipinos). Because of the efforts PWC has
expended to hire these workers, the amount of time it would
take to replace them, and the importance of the project to
PWC and the US military, Von Weethe said the company would
refrain from taking any “precipitous action” until it is
apparent that the workers will not be able to drive.
However, he added, PWC has sent letters to the Indian and
Philippines embassies, intimating that PWC will have to take
a business decision to replace their nationals sooner rather
than later, because the company cannot afford to pay people
who cannot do their jobs. Finally, Von Weethe said he is
considering sending his workers to their respective embassies
so that they may voice their willingness to work in Iraq and
their opposition to the ban.

¶7. (U) Baghdad minimize considered
TUELLER

   

 

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