By Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 5 April 2014:
The oil tanker which loaded an illegal shipment of crude from the blockaded eastern port of Sidra in early March has finally unloaded its cargo at Zawia refinery.
The unloading of the oil, understood to amount to some 230,000 barrels, was completed this morning, according to Libyan news agency LANA.
The Morning Glory was apprehended by US forces off the coast of Cyprus on 17 March, after the vessel fled into international waters with its illicitly-obtained cargo. The US intervened after receiving pleas from the Libyan and Cypriot governments and from the Captain of the ship who said the vessel was under the control of armed men and that the lives of the crew were in danger.
The tanker, which had been sailing under the flag of North Korea when it arrived at Sidra Port, was also a “stateless vessel” when it was seized. It was stripped of the right to sail under that flag when it loaded the illegally-sold oil which, North Korea said, breached its contractual terms.
These armed men, three Libyans whose names have not been made public, were arrested, along with the vessel’s crew, when it arrived in Tripoli on 23 March. The Libyans were later released in a controversial move by the Attorney General. This was apparently done to help smooth negotiations between self-styled federalist leader Ibrahim Jadhran, who has controlled three eastern oil export terminals since August last year, and the government.
These supposed negotiations, which the central government has denied being part of but which the so-called ‘Cyrenaica government’ insists are ongoing, have not yet led to any resolution.
The Cyrenaica government claimed, three days ago, that a provisional deal had been brokered. Nothing came of this, however, and tonight it said negotiations were still underway.
“Hopefully we are going to make an announcement tomorrow saying that the two sides are still in discussions,” spokesman for Cyrenaica government Ali Al-Hassi told the Libya Herald this evening.
The crew, six Pakistanis – including the Captain – six Indians, three Sri Lankans, two Syrians, two Sudanese and two Eritreans, were released towards the end of last week, an embassy official said. Their release was kept quiet for security reasons, he said. It is not clear how many of the crew have left the country so far.
It is also not known what will become of the vessel now it is empty. [/restrict]