By Sami Zaptia.
London, 15 June 2018:
Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) announced force majeure on crude oil loadings from its Ras Lanuf and Sidra port terminals as of yesterday (Thursday 14 June 2018). It confirmed that ‘‘an armed militia attacked both terminals, led by Ibrahim Jadhran’’, resulting in their closure. NOC evacuated all NOC employees as a precautionary measure.
In its force majeure announcement released yesterday, NOC chairman Mustafa Sanallasaid that “The safety and security of our workers is our utmost priority. All other matters are secondary. We continue to monitor the situation on the ground. We will work with local and governmental partners to restore order and full production capacity as soon as possible.”
“Individuals or political groups who attempt to capture Libya’s and NOC oil installations, blockade production, or attempt to make NOC a bargaining chip must be brought to justice. These are not patriotic acts, they are war crimes and should receive total condemnation from all Libyans and the international community.”, he added.
Sanalla said that the NOC will pursue by all possible legal means those who threaten its workers, disrupt production and attempt to illegally secure production and shipment facilities. The NOC estimated that blockades led by Jadhran ‘‘have cost the Libyan state tens of billions of dollars’’.
It will be recalled that former Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) Central Region Commander Ibrahim Jadran launched a militia attack on the oil crescent yesterday morning, taking control of both Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil port terminals from the Khalifa Hafter-aligned Libyan National Army (LNA).
Jadran, it will be recalled, had been in control of the region and had imposed an embargo on oil production and exports prior to being ejected from the area by an attack by Hafter’s LNA in September 2016.
Jadran announced the launch of his operation in a seven-minute video circulating on social media. In it he claimed to be freeing the region from the ‘‘terrorist and extremist’’ Karama (Dignity) forces aligned to Hafter and to end the ‘‘injustice’’ in the oil crescent.
Jadran claimed he was backed by his local Magharba tribe and the Tebu tribe. However, there are reports that he has been backed by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), the arch-enemies of Hafter and his Karama movement who themselves had been forcibly evicted from Benghazi in a war with Hafter. Unconfirmed reports also say that he has some rebel Chadian forces participating in his attack – rather than any Tebu forces.
In its official statement yesterday, the NOC had said that the loss in oil production as a result of the shut-down is expected to be around 240,000 bpd and a planned tanker entry today to Sidra port had been postponed.
In a statement yesterday afternoon, Faiez Serraj, in his guise as head of the Presidency Council and Commander-in-Chief of the Tripoli-based Libyan Army, condemned that attack and denied having given it any support.
UNSMIL also condemned the attack. In its statement yesterday, it said it ‘‘condemns the attack on the Libyan oil ports of Ras Lanuf & Es Sider. This dangerous escalation in Oil Crescent area, puts Libya’s economy in jeopardy & risks igniting a widespread confrontation in the country. Calm must be restored immediately. The unity of Libya must come first’’.
At the time of writing there had been no official statement from Hafter or his LNA, the House of Representatives in Tobruk nor the High State Council.