Tripoli, 6 July:
Armed Cyrenaica federalists have halted pumping at five oil terminals in the east of the country in a protest against the allocation of seats for the national assembly.
The oil terminals at Ras Lanuf, Sidra, Brega, Zuweitina and Al Hreigaarea this morning stopped pumping and loading of oil for 48 hours after armedfederalists demanded that operations be shut down.
The gunmen are thought to be the same members of self-appointed Cyrenaica Transitional Council’s military arm, led by Hamed Al-Hass which for 15days blocked the main coastal highway between Sirte and Ben Jawad, at Wadi Al-Ahmar, which sits on the historic border between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania.
That action came to an end only yesterday after the NCC announced the controversial constitutional change, creating a 60-member commission upon which, unlike in the 200 member assembly, Cyrenaica will have equal representation with Tripolitania and Fezzan.
Government negotiators at the Wadi Al-Ahmar road block left believing that the NTC’s concession had placated the militant federalists. Instead it is reported that they merely dismantled their camp and moved on to enforce the shutdown of the oil terminals.
Tumi Shakari, a supervisor at the Ras Lanuf terminal told AFP that the action was “very peaceful and amicable” although the 15 federalists were carrying guns. He continued: “This group has certain demands that they want to see fulfilled and they have asked us to stop our work for 48 hours.”
The Cyrenaica Transitional Council has vowed to sabotage tomorrow’s elections. It reject the distribution of assembly seats which gives the east only 60 members, as opposed to 100 seats reserved for the west,. while the south of the country has been allocated 40 seats.
After independence Cyrenaica enjoyed extra status because it was the homeland of the royal family and, indeed, King Idris spent much of his time at his palace in Benghazi.
The closure of the five terminals adds to the confusion being caused by the enforced shut down of three oilfields in the east of the country. There, armed Zway tribesmen, protesting at continued clashes in Kufra, have obliged oilfield workers to stop production from three fields. These are believed to include Wintershall’s Nafura C96 concession at Jakhira and the nearby concession in the Amal field, held by Harouge (formerly Veba) Oil. It is not clear how much production is being lost. Ironically however, the oil field shut down may undermine the effect of the closure at Ras Lanuf.
The terminal can handle up to 125,000 b/d a day of crude. Its tank farm, some three metres inland, has 13 oil storage tanks with a nominal capacity of 6.5 million barrels. It was not clear last night how much oil is currently held in the tank farm and therefore what spare capacity exists. However with the stopped flow from the Nafura and Amal fields, this may not be of concern, if the enforced shutdown does indeed last for only 48 hours.