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 September 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Tanker Trends

KOTC Takes Delivery of Product Tanker Mutriba

Classification society ClassNK said it has completed work on the 31,445 GT product tanker Mutriba, built by Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co., Ltd. (HMD) as part of a series

New Dual Use Piracy Barrier Launched

Guardian Maritime launched Guardian Greenwater, a new product that was developed to deal with the issue of greenwater on-board deck following turbulent weather conditions,

Weak Oil Threatens US Export of LNG

Plunging global oil prices may turn hopes for cheap liquefied natural gas supplies from the United States into a costly disappointment for Asian buyers who have

Navy

US Navy Orders Demonstration Craft from Willard Marine

Willard Marine, Inc. (WMI) announced it has been selected through a solicitation process to supply a demonstration model of a new, advanced combatant craft for the U.

Lavrov: No need for NATO in the Arctic

During the open lecture on Russia’s foreign policy, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that he could see no need for NATO presence in the Arctic. ‘From time to time,

USS Milius Departs on Deployment

The guided missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) departed Naval Base San Diego Oct. 20 on an independent deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Energy

Asia-Pacific Solar Collaboration Conference

The Australian Photovoltaic Institute is holding the inaugural Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference at the University of New South Wales in Sydney from 8-10 December 2014.

Pentair Reports 3Q 2014 Sales of $1.8 bi

Pentair plc today announced third quarter 2014 sales of $1.8 billion. Sales were up 3 percent compared to sales for the same period last year. Third quarter 2014

FortisBC Starts Expansion of Tilbury LNG Facility

FortisBC – a subsidiary of Fortis Inc. has officially started construction of its $400 million Tilbury LNG Facility expansion project today. The company is adding 1.

News

KOTC Takes Delivery of Product Tanker Mutriba

Classification society ClassNK said it has completed work on the 31,445 GT product tanker Mutriba, built by Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co., Ltd. (HMD) as part of a series

US Navy Orders Demonstration Craft from Willard Marine

Willard Marine, Inc. (WMI) announced it has been selected through a solicitation process to supply a demonstration model of a new, advanced combatant craft for the U.

Pink Lashings Raise Money for Breast Cancer Research

As the first Peters & May Pink Lashings shipment leaves Palma for Fort Lauderdale, the global marine transport company is calling all yacht owners to support its campaign to help raise £25,

Maritime Safety

AMSA Rescues 2 East of Darwin After Boat Sinks

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) coordinated the rescue of two men early this morning East of Darwin. About 4.30am AEDT this morning, AMSA detected

GOST Security System thwarts Break-in

GOST (Global Ocean Security Technologies), announced that its GOST Insight HD GPS Security System was instrumental in foiling the theft of electronics onboard a powerboat in Aventura, Florida.

USS Milius Departs on Deployment

The guided missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) departed Naval Base San Diego Oct. 20 on an independent deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Government Update

AMSA Rescues 2 East of Darwin After Boat Sinks

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) coordinated the rescue of two men early this morning East of Darwin. About 4.30am AEDT this morning, AMSA detected

USS Milius Departs on Deployment

The guided missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) departed Naval Base San Diego Oct. 20 on an independent deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Continership Alliance Expands to US Trades

The CKYHE Alliance (COSCO, "K" LINE, Yang Ming, Hanjin Shipping, and Evergreen Line) has announced they will expand their cooperation scope to U.S. Trades and CKYHE

 
 
Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Naval Architecture Navigation Pipelines Pod Propulsion Ship Electronics Ship Simulators Sonar Winch
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: 0.3386 sec (3 req/sec)