News / Middle East

Strikes And Political Instability Threaten Libya

The Zueitina oil terminal, about 120 km west of Benghazi, Libya, is one of several that has been closed down by labor strife.
The Zueitina oil terminal, about 120 km west of Benghazi, Libya, is one of several that has been closed down by labor strife.
New clashes at key oil terminals in Libya this week and a daring robbery of the European Union ambassador in Tripoli are raising new concerns about economic and political chaos in the North African nation.
 
The government had hoped to re-open several key oil terminals this week that had been closed by striking guards from the recently formed Petroleum Facilities Guard, or PFG. The group is largely made up of militia fighters who helped to topple Moammar Gadhafi two years ago, but have been operating largely outside government control. 
 
But clashes at the ports of Brega and Zueitina, where PFG forces fired on protestors, made it clear that the on-going labor dispute is far from over.  Another issue that came up during the labor dispute was that the striking port workers were apparently selling Libyan oil illegally. This came to light when the Libyan Coast Guard prevented a tanker from entering the terminal at Es Sider, where it was believed to be heading to pick up an illegal shipment of oil.
  
The biggest export terminals at Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, which has an export capacity of 350,000 barrels a day, remain closed. The leader of the strike – a former PFG commander – is based at Es Sider.
 
Libyan oil officials such as Mohammed Hattab of Waha Oil say some terminals have reopened.  “The Brega port is open, one tanker there is loading” said Hattab, who added that the terminal at Hariga is also back on line. 
 
Oil issue leads to political instability
 
Even so, pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Ali Zeidan to do something about the strike. He had warned earlier that oil exports had plunged by 70 percent, a devastating setback for Libya, which relies on oil exports for nearly all of its foreign revenues. 
 
Resumption of shipments from the Brega terminal will only add 90,000 barrels a day to the roughly 500,000 barrels a day Libya is currently exporting, well under half of what the country was exporting before the rebellion that ousted Gadhafi.
 Libya exports its oil in a partnership agreement between the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and oil companies such as Occidental Petroleum, which has a major stake in Libya.
  
That partnership appears to be fraying.  On August 18th, the National Oil Corporation invoked force majeure clauses on export contracts of crude and refined products, legally excusing itself from contractual deliveries because of events beyond its control.  
 
Libyan oil official Ibrahim Al Awami told Bloomberg News that the NOC hoped to cancel the force majeure declaration soon, but sources say that would be unlikely as long as the country’s two major terminals, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, remain closed.  NOC officials were meeting with some of their long-term oil company partners in Istanbul in a bid resolve the issue.
 
Libya’s Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi says the disruption so far has cost the country $1.6 billion in lost revenue. He warned that not all customers “who have gone to other markets for their oil” will come back.  Industry sources say Nigeria has been the biggest beneficiary of disruption of deliveries from Libya.
 
The Es Sider incident this week, in which the coast guard stopped a tanker suspected of trying to illegally export oil, has raised fears that some strikers will speed up moves to sell oil themselves.  Those fears, led Prime Minister Zeidan to threaten that any unauthorized tankers trying to ship illicit shipments “will be bombed from the air and the sea.”
 
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zdidan, shown here shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry March 13, 2013, is under pressure to stop the crippling oil industry strikes.Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zdidan, shown here shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry March 13, 2013, is under pressure to stop the crippling oil industry strikes.
x
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zdidan, shown here shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry March 13, 2013, is under pressure to stop the crippling oil industry strikes.
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zdidan, shown here shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry March 13, 2013, is under pressure to stop the crippling oil industry strikes.
With the export terminals’ storage capacity filled up, oilfields have had to shut down their wells, cutting exports and production to their lowest levels since the civil war in 2011.
 
The oil standoff has added to the woes of the fragile Zeidan government, which is built on an uneasy coalition of Islamists, Gadhafi-era holdovers and some longtime Gadhafi opponents. It has teetered from one crisis to another and has been unable to persuade revolutionary militias to disband and help build up an effective national army.
 
To make matters worse, some of the national military units are dominated by militiamen from the towns of Misrata and Zintan and heed their commanders’ orders rather than instructions from the central government.

Lawlessness spreads
 
The resulting lack of a truly national military has allowed lawlessness to take hold in parts of the country.
 
On Monday (August 19), a group of gunmen attacked a convoy carrying the EU ambassador to Libya, Nataliya Apostolova. The assault outside the Corinthia Hotel in central Tripoli was not far from the prime minister’s main office. The gunmen robbed the EU delegation at gunpoint before shooting at passing cars and making their escape. Policemen outside the hotel did not intervene, according to the EU diplomats.
 
There has also been a series of targeted killings in the eastern city of Benghazi in recent days. The Associated Press reported that a senior security investigator was shot and killed Friday, a day after street clashes by rival factions in the city.
 
But the Tripoli government’s problems go well beyond street crime and lawlessness. Political leaders in the east of the country have been agitating for less centralized governing structure since the overthrow of Gadhafi. Now these leaders, known in Libya as federalists, are threatening to break away from Tripoli.
 
The federalists have close ties to the striking oil industry guards in the area and are accusing the central government of having overly close links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Increasingly, they are trying to portray their cause to break away from Tripoli as similar to the struggle between secularists and Islamists in neighboring Egypt.
 
But analysts say the current factionalism in Libya is more complex than simply a struggle between secularists and Islamists.
 
“What we are seeing are shifting coalitions involving militias and different political groupings jostling as much over short-term economic interests as anything to do with political ideology,” says a political risk analyst who advises international oil companies and who asked not to be named.
 
Another risk analyst, Henry Smith of the Control Risks consultancy group, told Reuters the troubles may be too deep and widespread for the government to control.
“Libya is essentially beholden to local and regional interests groups,” Smith told the news agency. “The government doesn’t really have the coercive capacity to be able to stop them.”

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs