National Oil Company moves to foil attempt to illegally sell crude oil by parallel eastern oil company

The El Sharara oil field in Libya. The Tripoli-based National Oil Co. says it has taken action to block the first export of crude oil by a rival in Libya’s east. PHOTO: REUTERS
The El Sharara oil field in Libya. The Tripoli-based National Oil Co. says it has taken action to block the first export of crude oil by a rival in Libya’s east. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Tripoli-based National Oil Co. said late Friday that it had taken action to block the first export of crude oil by a rival company in Libya’s east.

If completed, the sale would create a lucrative revenue stream to a parallel government in the east and potentially imperil a fragile peace process with the United Nations-backed unity government that rules the country’s western half. The eastern government has repeatedly tried to export oil this year but has had trouble finding shippers and buyers amid fears of legal action by the country’s internationally recognized National Oil Co. in Tripoli.

Libya has fractured since the 2011 ouster and death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, with militias controlling large swaths of the oil-rich North African nation.

The unity government, called the Government of National Accord, has been slow to assert control over the factions that rule the country’s east, where authorities have refused to recognize the new political body.

Under Libyan law, all petroleum produced and sold in the country has to be done through the National Oil Co., deemed by the U.N. to be independent of the various factions vying for power.

The eastern government has set up its own National Oil Co., though, in the hope of bolstering its position. On Friday, a spokesman said the company had sold its first cargo and a tanker was ready to load at the eastern port of Marsa al-Hariga.

But in a statement posted on its website, Tripoli’s National Oil Co. said it had ordered employees at the terminal not to load the tanker and warned the vessel’s master that the operation was illegal. The company also said the U.N. had been notified of the attempted loading, saying it was in breach of a resolution on Libya.

Libya’s oil exports amount to about 300,000 barrels a day and represent the country’s main source of revenue.

 

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