Last updated: 10 December, 2013

Libya oil terminals blockade “to end Sunday”

A months-long blockade by armed protesters of vital oil terminals in eastern Libya will be lifted on Sunday, allowing exports to resume, a tribal chief announced.

“We expect that the export of crude from the oil terminals will resume from December 15,” Saleh al-Ateiwich, head of the powerful Al-Magharba tribe which launched the blockade in July in support of its demands for regional autonomy, said Tuesday.

These protests as well as blockades of fuel deliveries by the Berber minority have seen Libya’s oil output plunge to about 250,000 barrels per day from normal levels of nearly 1.5 million bpd.

Security guards at the oil installations have been on strike since the end of July, blockading the main terminals at Zueitina, Ras Lanouf and Al-Sedra in eastern Libya.

The head of the security guards, Ibrahim Jodhrane, confirmed during a televised meeting with his tribe in the town of Nouafliya that the blockade would be lifted.

But he laid down conditions, including a share of the oil revenues for the Cyrenaica region in the east that is seeking autonomy in a federated state.

Supporters of a federal system last month announced the creation of a company to sell oil from seized terminals in the east, adding to pressure on the government.

The announcement came from the Cyrenaica Political Bureau, which in October set up its own government in the east in a move that angered Tripoli.

The government has accused the protesting guards of trying to sell crude, while the strikers have in turn charged the government with corruption in oil sales.

Since the ouster of Libya’s longtime leader Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, authorities have struggled to quell rising lawlessness and impose their authority.

But with Tuesday’s announcement by Ateiwich, Jodhrane appears to have given way to pressure from his tribe.

Libya’s oil minister told reporters on December 3 at an OPEC meeting in Vienna that his country hopes to restore full oil output within days.

“In 10 days if everything goes right, hopefully we’ll go back to 1.5” million barrels per day, Abdelbari al-Arusi told reporters.

“Things change… that (is) why I said hopefully, I’m not sure because things are not in my hands,” he added, cautious of previous false starts.

Arusi added that the lost production had cost Libya “around $9.0 billion” in lost revenues.