By Sami Zaptia.
London, 14 January 2017:
The National Oil Corporation (NOC) and its Brega Marketing subsidiary held a meeting Thursday headed by NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla specifically to discuss anti-fuel smuggling measures.
At the meeting, it was decided to commence a review and inspection of petrol stations across all of Libya. Petrol stations will be inspected for pre-set Brega standards and issued with renewable certifictes of conformity. Only petrol stations that are certified will then be supplied with fuels, oils and cooking gas.
The move is seen as an attempt at mitigating ‘‘wrongly’’ issued trading licenses by the Ministry of Economy. It will be worth noting that whilst the NOC’s Brega sets technical and safety standards for petrol stations, it is the local offices of the Ministry of Economy that issue trading licenses for. It is widely believed that the issuing of these licenses has been abused by fuel smugglers.
The meeting decided that all petrol stations and fuel distribution companies will be inspected and checked for their anti-fuel smuggling measures. Petrol stations will also be checked to see if they open and operate and if all their pumps are actually working – deemed possible tell-tale signs of fuel smuggling.
Moreover, many petrol stations that have existed on paper and have been receiving heavily subsidized fuel for years, especially those in rural Libya, are believed to be no more than ghost petrol stations set up on paper as fronts for fuel smuggling operations.
The NOC and its Brega subsidiary, backed by Serraj’s PC/GNA, are on a nationwide campaign to fight fuel smuggling which after the 2011 Libyan revolution, the total collapse of state security and the mushrooming of armed militias – has become endemic.
Historically, whilst the highly inefficient and corrupt Libyan state under Qaddafi was able to afford the smuggling of subsidized fuel – when the economy was strong through high oil production and international crude oil prices at over US$ 100/barrel – today the beleaguered Libyan state can no longer afford the price of fuel smuggling.
The head-on clash between the NOC/Brega and the militia fuel-smugglers at the Zawia Oil Refinery has led to a counter-reaction in Zawia which has led to the shutting down of the gas feed pipeline to Zawia power stations, resulting in 12-hour plus power cuts across the country. The south of Libya has suffered days of consecutive total blackouts.