Libyan rebels could start oil exports soon

First oil tanker in three weeks gives hope to rebels in Tobruk

According to Lloyds List, a Liberian-flagged tanker capable of carrying US$100m worth of crude is expected to dock at a rebel-held oil port in Tobruk.
According to Lloyds List, a Liberian-flagged tanker capable of carrying US$100m worth of crude is expected to dock at a rebel-held oil port in Tobruk.

Libya could once again resume oil exports, this time by rebels who have taken control of the oil export terminal at Tobruk on the eastcoast of the country, according to AFP.

Almost three weeks after oil shipments halted, a Liberian-flagged Suezmax tanker capable of holding US$100 or 1 million barrels’ worth of crude oil approached the port on Tuesday.

AFP quoted shipping news service Lloyd’s List as saying that the vessel was due to dock at the Marsa el-Hariga terminal at the port.

"We have yet to confirm if it has arrived ... The owner of the tanker has yet to comment," said Michelle Wiese Bockmann of Lloyds List. She said that the last oil shipment from Libya was on March 18.

The news agency said that the rebels themselves would neither confirm nor deny the report as they are jittery on giving away their movements to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

"These are national security questions, telling the enemy what we have and what we don't ... So we prefer not to comment on these things," Mustafa Gheriani, spokesman for the Transitional National Council in rebel-held Benghazi told AFP.

He said referring to the attack on early Monday on Mislah oil field, that Colonel Gaddafi’s forces were “trying to bomb the oilfield, so this is a national security matter." 

"If this shipment does go ahead, I think it will send a very strong message that international oil (exporting) is going to resume," Bockmann told AFP.

"It's quite a risky business. The ship owner, I would imagine, is being paid a significant premium to bring that ship there,” she added.

On Friday Qatar offered to market oil from rebel-held territory but actually managing the logistics of the oil shipments could be challenging under the current circumstances for both the rebels and Qatar Petroleum who made the offer.

"We wanted to do it last week, but just because you have an agreement to sell or market the oil through Qatar, the logistics take a while," Gheriani told the news agency.

Europe is easily Libya’s biggest oil export market representing 85% of total shipments. The oil-rich North African country was said to be producing 1.69 million bpd before the conflict began in mid-February.

According to Bockmann, there are unconfirmed reports of other tankers heading towards Libyan ports, she also said that there are anecdotal reports of “off-market” deals being made between ship-brokers to ship oil from Libya.

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