India has instructed an Indian-flagged oil tanker that has been blacklisted by the U.N. not to discharge its cargo of crude oil from Libya's rival eastern government and to await instructions from the United Nations, a senior Indian government official said on Thursday.
The tanker, the Distya Ameya, is carrying 650,000 barrels of crude on behalf of a second National Oil Corporation (NOC) set up by Libya's rival eastern government in parallel to the Tripoli-based NOC, which is recognized internationally as the legitimate seller of Libyan oil.
The Tripoli NOC and its international backers say that if the eastern government succeeds in its long-held aim of selling oil independently, it would undermine a U.N.-backed unity government that arrived in Tripoli last month and put the political and economic future of Libya at risk.
The U.N. Security Council Libya sanctions committee blacklisted the Distya Ameya on Wednesday after receiving a request from the Libyan U.N. ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi. This requires states to ban it from entering any port.
Deepak Shetty, director general of shipping with India's Ministry of Shipping, said he had told the vessel's operator and the charterer to instruct the captain not to discharge the cargo "at all, anywhere." The ship was currently near Malta.
"They will follow the U.N. guidance which will come to them through us," Shetty said. "They are now staying put ... no oil will be discharged even if the charterer wants them to. They will wait for the U.N. to tell us where the vessel will have to go."
The U.N. spokesman's office in New York said the U.N. Libya mission was not involved in the issue at all. One Western diplomat said it was not clear what India was expecting from the United Nations and which body or branch of the U.N. it hoped would provide instructions.
Under U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted since 2014 on the illicit export of Libyan oil, it is up to states - not the United Nations - to direct designated vessels "to take appropriate actions to return the crude oil, with the consent of and in coordination with the Government of Libya, to Libya."
"The ship has to be forced to unload the shipment in one of the Libyan oil facilities
and face legal charges," Dabbashi said, adding that he was unsure about the legal procedure.
A source close to the situation said the cargo was to be offloaded at the western Libyan port of Zawiya and processed for use within the country. The NOC in Tripoli did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma, Libby George, Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau, writing by Jonathan Saul and Michelle Nichols, editing by Dale Hudson and Marguerita Choy)