Exclusive: Libya oil exports threatened as NOC warns against port deal

Sun Jul 24, 2016 10:36am EDT
 
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By Ahmad Ghaddar, Libby George and Aidan Lewis

LONDON/TUNIS (Reuters) - Libya's hopes to boost crude exports have been dealt a blow after the head of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) objected to a deal between the government and local guards to reopen key ports. 

In a letter seen by Reuters to U.N. Libya envoy Martin Kobler and a number of oil and diplomatic officials, NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla said it was a mistake to reward Ibrahim Jathran, head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), for a blockade of the oil ports of Ras Lanuf, Es Sider and Zueitina.

The PFG confirmed on Friday that it would implement an agreement with Libya's U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) to reopen the ports within days, following a visit by Kobler to meet Jathran in Ras Lanuf.

The terms for ending the blockade have not been made public, but an initial payment for salaries for Jathran's men has been agreed, sources familiar with the matter say.

In the letter, Sanalla said the deal included payments that would encourage other groups to disrupt oil operations in the hopes of a similar payout.

"It sets a terrible precedent and will encourage anybody who can muster a militia to shut down a pipeline, an oilfield, or a port, to see what they can extort," the letter said.

Sanalla said the NOC would not lift force majeure at export terminals if a payout went through due to the risk that the corporation would face liabilities.

Should any court cases arise internationally for losses stemming from the blockade, "we, as NOC, are determined not to be attached to these lawsuits", the letter said.   Continued...

 
A worker maintains oil pipelines at the Zueitina oil terminal in Zueitina, west of Benghazi April 7, 2014.REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori