Ousted Libyan PM Flees Country After Tanker Escapes Rebel-Held Port

Posted by Michelle Howard
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Libya's now ousted Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (AFP file photo, Mahmud Turkia)

By Ulf Laessing, Reuters

Former Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan has fled to Europe after parliament voted him out of office on Tuesday over his failure to stop rebels exporting oil independently in a brazen challenge to the nation's fragile unity.

Zeidan was in Malta for two hours late on Tuesday on a short stop before going to "another European country", Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told state-owned television TVM.

Government sources in Malta said he had left via a private plane bound for Germany, but the German authorities could not confirm he had arrived.

The standoff over control of oil exports runs across dangerous regional and tribal faultlines in Libya where rival militias with powerbases in the east and west back competing political factions in the transitional government.

Western powers, who supported the NATO campaign that came to the aid of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion, fear the OPEC member state could slide into greater instability or even break apart, with rival groups laying claim to power and vast oil reserves.

Parliament acted after rebels holding three key ports in the east disobeyed government orders and loaded a North Korean-flagged tanker with oil at Es Sider port as part of their drive for a federal state in their eastern region.

Although Zeidan had threatened to use force to stop the vessel leaving, the tanker managed to reach international waters and flee, undermining the prime minister's credibility.

Malta's Muscat said he spoke briefly to Zeidan, who lived for many years in Europe before the 2011 uprising encouraged exiles like him to return to a North African country still struggling to shake off four decades of Gaddafi's one-man rule.

Libya's state prosecutor Abdel-Qader Radwan had issued a travel ban on Zeidan because he faces an investigation over alleged irregularities involving misuse of state funds.

The General National Congress (GNC), Libya's transitional assembly, named Defence Minister Abdallah al-Thinni acting prime minister for two weeks. Deputies plan to pick another replacement in the interim ahead of a parliamentary vote expected later this year.

Whoever is chosen will face a mammoth task trying to unite and cajole a country deeply divided along tribal, regional and political lines, where hardline Islamists oppose more liberal leaders such as Zeidan.

"We are new to this political game. We are still learning," said Salah Elbakhoush, a Tripoli-based political analyst.

"But we hope that there will be an improvement after Zeidan left," he said.

No Army, No Credibility
Libya has lurched from crisis to crisis since the fall of Gaddafi nearly three years ago, and many Libyans are frustrated by the slow progress in their transition to democracy.

The country still has no effective army or police, and the government is in danger of running out of money because the rebel activity at oilfields and ports have dried up vital oil revenue. Oil output has fallen to a trickle.

That has left powerful groups of former rebels and militiamen to often step into the vacuum in a country still awash with arms from Gaddafi's days and the revolt that ended his rule.

The Misratan militia, based in the port town of Misrata and loosely allied with Islamist parties in the GNC, has already been gathering forces to support the government and face off with fighters loyal to the eastern federalists who seized the ports.

But analysts said their main rivals, the Zintanis in the mountain town of Zintan near the northwest border with Tunisia, are unlikely to want the Misratans take a larger role in the country's security without reacting themselves.

How far those rivalries will erupt is unclear, with alliances often shifting in the complex network of interlacing disputes. Clashes broke out on Tuesday between rebel gunmen and pro-government forces in Sirte, a central coastal city dividing western and eastern Libya.

"With control of the central government and Libya's oil at stake, all of these groups, rivalries, and alliances of convenience are coming to the fore," said Geoff Porter, North Africa specialist at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center.

"One of the reasons that Libya has reached this impasse is that dialogue had failed, not least because there was no one in Libya that could speak authoritatively and had the capacity to translate words into action."

Mystery Tanker

There was no still word on the whereabouts of the tanker which sparked the crisis that led to Zeidan's ouster.

A military spokesman said on Tuesday that Libyan gunboats chased the tanker along Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast and opened fire, damaging it, and said Italian naval ships were helping move the tanker to a Libyan government-controlled port.

But Italy denied any of its vessels were in the area at the time and the reported incident of a naval ship opening fire could not be confirmed. The navy and defence ministry have not been available for comment since.

The eastern rebels are made up of former oil security forces who defected with their leader Ibrahim Jathran, a former Gaddafi fighter, in the summer and took over the oil terminals to claim more autonomy for their self-declared Cyrenaica region.

Zeidan's government tried for months to mediate an end to the ports seizure, and Cyrenaica leaders had claimed an agreement was close.

Support had seemed to be waning for Jathran after the six-month ports closure, and the navy had already opened fire on a Maltese-flagged tanker trying to approach Es Sider in January.

(Additional reporting by Chris Scicluna; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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

People & Company News

Apply Now for the MN 100

The August 2015 edition of Marine News, the leading voice in the North American workboat market, will feature 100 leaders and innovators, including workboat owners and operators,

Alfred Hartmann: New Captain on the Bridge at VDR

Shipping owner Alfred Hartmann is the new President of the Association of German Shipowners (VDR). For the first time a mid-size company owner is at the helm of the VDR,

VT Halter Powers Ahead

If you drive just south of I-10 in Pascagoula, Miss., within 10 minutes you find yourself on the doorstep of VT Halter Marine, arguably one of the more diverse and active shipyards in the U.

Tanker Trends

MISC Says AET Tankers Unit Not for Sale

MISC Berhad issued a statement today addressing recent market speculation that the company is set to sell its wholly owned petroleum tanker subsidiary AET Tankers.

Strong Tanker Market Extends Peak Season High Earnings

Tanker earnings for crude oil tankers have climbed to new strong levels in the first quarter of 2015, with averages not seen since 2008, the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) reported.

Asia Tankers-VLCC Rates Soar

Middle East VLCC rates hit $69,500 a day; daily VLCC rates average $51,000, highest since 2008 (Clarkson). Rates for very large crude carriers (VLCCs) on a key

Ports

Kenya Eyes Inland Cargo Logistics Hub to Serve Nearby States

Kenya aims to build a cargo logistics hub near the border with Uganda to receive and clear goods through customs that arrive by air, rail or road, easing pressure

Port of Ngqura’s New Automated Mooring System

The automated mooring system at the Port of Ngqura in South Africa’s east coast is poised to improve port efficiency and safety, cementing the deep water port’s

General Mills Strategically placed in Port Salford

General Mills UK & Ireland – responsible for a range of market-leading brands, including Old El Paso, Green Giant, Betty Crocker and Nature Valley – is to be

Navy

HMS Prince of Wales Bridge Sets Sail

The bridge section of the second Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier set sail today from Glasgow on its first sea voyage to Rosyth.   Upper Block 07 is where

The German Shipbuilding Rebound

German shipbuilding has made a significant turnaround. The country’s shipbuilding industry has seen increases in the number of employees, orders and deliveries compared to 2013,

VT Halter Powers Ahead

If you drive just south of I-10 in Pascagoula, Miss., within 10 minutes you find yourself on the doorstep of VT Halter Marine, arguably one of the more diverse and active shipyards in the U.

Energy

Four Petrobras Platforms Halt Output Due to Oil Leak

Four Petrobras oil platforms off the northeast coast of Brazil have halted production after a leak of about 7,000 liters of oil was detected coming from a pipeline linking them,

Oil Price Shock Soon to be Positive Overall for Canada

Canada's economy will start to show more positive effects from the drop in oil prices than negatives from the second quarter onwards, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said on Friday.

Total Eyes Sale of its Fuel Retailing Business in Turkey

Total aims to exit its fuel distribution business in Turkey and has asked Societe Generale to lead the sale, sources said on Friday, as the French oil producer

Maritime Security

HMS Prince of Wales Bridge Sets Sail

The bridge section of the second Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier set sail today from Glasgow on its first sea voyage to Rosyth.   Upper Block 07 is where

Iran Moves Ships, Reducing Tensions Near Yemen

A flotilla of nine Iranian military and cargo ships that U.S. officials feared was carrying arms to strife-torn Yemen sailed northeast in the direction of Iran on Friday,

Russia, France Close to Deal on Mistrals

Russia and France are close to reaching an agreement for Paris to cancel a frozen contract on the sale of Mistral helicopter carriers and reimburse Moscow, a Russian

News

Two Rescued from Sinking Shrimp Boat

Two fishermen were rescued from their sinking shrimp boat by a U.S. Coast Guard aircrew Friday off the coast of Saint Simons Island near Brunswic, Georgia.   Watchstanders

IMO: Making Ferries Safer

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) domestic ferry safety conference in Manila April 24 has adopted guidelines to aid the process of reducing the mounting

Judge Orders Migrant Boat to Remain in Custody

An Italian judge on Friday ordered that the presumed captain of a migrant boat that sank with the loss of more than 700 lives should remain in custody after prosecutors

Government Update

Judge Orders Migrant Boat to Remain in Custody

An Italian judge on Friday ordered that the presumed captain of a migrant boat that sank with the loss of more than 700 lives should remain in custody after prosecutors

Iran Moves Ships, Reducing Tensions Near Yemen

A flotilla of nine Iranian military and cargo ships that U.S. officials feared was carrying arms to strife-torn Yemen sailed northeast in the direction of Iran on Friday,

Rescue Ships Head for Libya, as Migrants Die Also in Balkans

British and German warships made ready to sail for waters off Libya as Europe ramped up rescue operations in the Mediterranean after up to 900 desperate migrants

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Offshore Oil Pod Propulsion Salvage Ship Electronics Ship Repair Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | 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: 0.2222 sec (5 req/sec)