Libya says halts tanker outside rebel port; rebels deny it

marinelink.com
Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rebels deny losing control of North Korean-flagged tanker; Government says tanker being taken to western port. Oil blockade has slashed vital government revenues.

By Ulf Laessing and Ghaith Shennib

Libya on Monday stopped a North Korean-flagged tanker that had loaded oil from a rebel-held port, after naval forces briefly exchanged fire with the rebels, officials said.

But in a sign of the chaos and conflicting information typical for Libya, rebel leader Ibrahim Jathran denied in a televised statement broadcast from a ship that he had lost control of the oil tanker.

The LIbyan officials also said the government will assemble forces to "liberate" all occupied ports, raising the stakes over a blockage that has cut off vital oil revenue.

The conflict over oil wealth is increasing fears that the OPEC producer may slide deeper into chaos or even splinter as the fragile government fails to rein in dozens of militias that helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority.

The rebels, who have seized three ports and partly control a fourth in the North African country, said they had dispatched forces to central Libya to deal with any government attack.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan told Reuters naval forces had seized the North Korean-flagged tanker outside the eastern Es Sider port controlled by rebels and were taking it to a government port in western Libya.

"The ship is around 20 miles from Es Sider," Zeidan said. "It stopped due to darkness and won't move tonight but is under complete control and secured. Tomorrow it will move."

Naval forces had halted the ship after a brief firefight with the rebels, Culture Minister and government spokesman Habib al-Amin later told reporters. Nobody had been wounded, but he warned opening fire again might damage nearby oil facilities.

But rebel leader Jathran appeared on the television station of his movement after midnight and denied Tripoli's forces had surrounded the tanker.

Speaking from a ship, Jathran vowed to keep selling oil independently of the government, and blasted the United States for earlier criticizing the crude loading. The station did not identify the ship he was standing on, but it appeared to be smaller than the 37,000-tonne oil tanker.

Even without any major military action, the escalation kills any hope of restoring oil exports soon. A wave of protests at oilfields and ports has reduced Libyan output to a trickle, undermining state authority because oil is the main revenue source supporting the budget and basic food imports.

The head of parliament, who has quasi-presidential powers, ordered the formation of a force made up of regular soldiers and allied militias to take back the occupied ports, which previously handled more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day.

The operation will start within one week, parliament head Nuri Ali Abu Sahmain said in a decree published by spokesman Omar Hmeidan. "The force will be set up to liberate the ports and end the blockage," Hmeidan told Reuters.

Zeidan, who said on Saturday the tanker would be bombed if it tried to export oil, said military action was only one of several options.

"What is confirmed it that all ports will be liberated from the occupiers with all means possible," he said. "We prefer talks but if talks fail then the state will act."

Zeidan said authorities would unload the crude from the tanker once it reached a western port and then launch legal measures against the potential buyers.

DEFIANT REBELS
Libya has been trying to rebuild its army since Gaddafi's ousting, but analysts say it is not yet a match for battle-hardened militias that fought in the eight-month uprising that toppled the dictator.

Still, the force will be drawn from cities such as Misrata that are home to fighters who saw battle in the civil war, according to the decree. Misrata forces were sent earlier this year to fight in clashes deep in Libya's south.

Abb-Rabbo al-Barassi, the self-declared rebel prime minister, called on "all honourable men" in the east to join his forces, a rebel television station reported.

The rebels, made up of former oil security guards, said they had sent forces by land and sea to central Libya to confront any government attackers.

FULL CONFRONTATION UNLIKELY

While the navy did open fire on a Maltese-flagged tanker trying to approach Es Sider in January, analysts say a full military confrontation with the rebels would be unlikely.

Jathran, the leader of the protesters, is a former anti-Gaddafi commander who was in charge of protecting oilfields and ports until he turned against the government in the summer.

His campaign to seek more rights for Libya's underdeveloped east has won him some sympathy, but many people dismiss him as a tribal warlord with no political vision.

Libya's top Islamic clerics urged militias who had helped topple Gaddafi to help the government in trying to stop the tanker, according to a statement read on television.

The United Nations' special envoy to Libya, Tarek Mitri, told the U.N. Security Council on Monday that the loading of oil onto the North Korean-flagged vessel "constitutes an illegal act and violates Libya's sovereignty over its ports and natural resources".

On Sunday, Tripoli said the navy and pro-government militias had sent boats to stop the tanker from leaving. The vessel had arrived at Es Sider on Saturday.

It is unusual for a tanker flagged to secretive North Korea to sail in the Mediterranean. Shipping sources said it was a flag of convenience to keep the ship's ownership secret.

In a rare bright spot, state National Oil Corp managed to restart the southern El Sharara oilfield after a protest ended there, a spokesman said. It is now pumping 150,000 barrels per day and might reach full capacity at 340,000 bpd by Tuesday afternoon.

Maritime Reporter February 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Tanker Trends

First LNG-powered EcoLiner Launched

Europe’s greenest inland vessel debuts Damen group innovations   Damen Shipyards Group launched the first LNG-powered Damen EcoLiner inland shipping tanker

Stronger Panamaxes Boost Baltic Sea Freight Index

The Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index, which tracks rates for ships carrying dry bulk commodities, made minor gains on Thursday on higher rates for the panamax and smaller vessel segments.

Tank Coating for Navig8 Chemical Carrier Newbuilds

Shipowner Navig8 is progressing application of Interline9001, an advanced cargo tank coating from AkzoNobel’s International marine coating product range, on a series

Energy

EU to Deliver Climate Pledge to UN

EU ministers agreed on Friday to send their formal promise on how much they will cut greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations ahead of climate change talks starting in November.

New Floating Installation Concept for Offshore Wind

Conquest Offshore, together with deugro Denmark A/S, has developed an installation system for monopiles and transition pieces, supported by Temporary Works Design (TWD) and Barge Master.

Royal IHC Merges Four Units into IHC IQIP

Royal IHC (IHC) has integrated four of its business units – IHC Hydrohammer, IHC Handling Systems, IHC Sea Steel and IHC Fundex Equipment – into one new organization,

Maritime Security

India's Naval Help to Small Indian Ocean Nations

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assigned senior officials in the Ministry of Defence with a task to “identify” and “support” maritime needs of smaller nations

Houston Ship Channel Reopens After Ships Collide

The Houston Ship Channel has reopened after a collision between a container ship and a chemical tanker, according to a spokesman with the United States Coast Guard.

Australia Announces Patrol Boat Tender

Tender announced for Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project   The Australian Government announced a Request for Tender (RFT) to replace the Pacific Patrol Boats

News

Zamakona to Deliver Tuna Freezer Vessel

Zamakona Yards to deliver tuna freezer vessel Jai Alai to the Echebastar Group   This Saturday, March 7, Zamakona Shipyards in Santurce will deliver its construction number 737,

St. Lawrence Seaway Opening Date Pushed Back

Tthe opening date for the St. Lawrence Seaway 2015 navigation season has been delayed following review and consideration of factors and conditions affecting safe

Drop in Cocoa Bean Size Worries Ivorian Exporters

Dry weather in top cocoa grower Ivory Coast has caused a sharp drop in bean size and will delay the start of the April-to-September mid-crop by nearly two months,

Maritime Safety

St. Lawrence Seaway Opening Date Pushed Back

Tthe opening date for the St. Lawrence Seaway 2015 navigation season has been delayed following review and consideration of factors and conditions affecting safe

IACS Comments on MOL Comfort Report

The International Association of Classifications Societies (IACS) informs it will study the final report issued in Japan by the Committee on Large Container Ship Safety (CLCSS),

Tor Svensen: Europe Must Drive Maritime Sector

Europe has a major role to play in driving the maritime industry forward, said Tor Svensen, CEO of DNV GL – Maritime, in his keynote speech on innovation at the European Shipping Week in Brussels.

Government Update

EU to Deliver Climate Pledge to UN

EU ministers agreed on Friday to send their formal promise on how much they will cut greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations ahead of climate change talks starting in November.

Statoil: Johan Castberg, Snorre 2040 Timelines Changed

The licensees in the Johan Castberg and Snorre 2040 licences have decided to spend more time on the projects. “Castberg and Snorre 2040 are two major and important projects in our portfolio,

Senate Committee Approves Vessel Discharge Reform Legislation

The effort to establish a uniform national framework for the regulation of vessel discharges took another step forward as the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved S.

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Security Maritime Standards Naval Architecture Offshore Oil Pod Propulsion Salvage Ship Electronics Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.3342 sec (3 req/sec)