By Ahmed Elumami and Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 5 June 2013:
The government has ordered the NOC to move to Benghazi. A cabinet notice . . .[restrict]issued today instructs the Ministry of Oil and Gas to take “the necessary measures, in coordination with the relevant authorities” to facilitate the transfer. Along with the NOC, the government has also ordered Libyan Airlines, the Libya Company for Insurance and the Internal Investment Company to go to Benghazi.
“I’ve had the firm conviction that since the early days of liberation that if Libya did not move out state institutions to all regions, it would not last,” the Prime Minister said at a press conference today in response to a question from the Libya Herald on the decision. “The transfer of the NOC does not mean that there will not be representative offices in other cities,” he added .
Cyrenaica federalists made the return of the NOC, Libyan Airlines and other companies that used to be in Benghazi until Qaddafi removed them, a key political demand. However, they have not been alone in doing so. There is strong public support throughout the city and across the east of the country for the move.
It is seen as an attempt to placate the federalists who, four days ago, declared self-government in Cyrenaica.
Nonetheless, the announcement has caused confusion in Congress and the oil industry.
It has been reported that the NOC is to be split into two companies, one in charge of exploration and production, based in Tripoli, the other running refining and downstream operations, based in Benghazi. When last week the Prime Minister announced that the NOC would go to Benghazi and that new headquarters would be built for it there, Deputy Oil and Gas Minister Omar Shakmak told the Libya Herald that what was meant was that there would be a split and that the refining company, to be known as the Libyan Corporation for Refining and Downstream Operations would go to Benghazi but that the new Libyan Corporation for Oil Exploration and Production would be in Tripoli. Each would have representative offices in the other city, he said.
“The NOC has land in Benghazi near Al-Fadeel Hotel and it has been chosen as the location of the new corporation,” Shakmak said.
Altogether, he said, the planned new oil complex in Benghazi was to comprise :
• A branch of the Oil and Gas Ministry;
• An executive office to oversee the development of oil projects in eastern Libya;
• The Benghazi branch of the Tripoli-based Libyan Oil Exploration and Production Corporation;
• The headquarters of the Libyan Oil Refining and Downstream Corporation;
• The Metallurgical Construction Company (pipes and tanks).
It is now unclear whether what is going to Benghazi is the NOC as it stands, the NOC as a holding company along with the refining corporation but leaving exploration in Tripoli, something between the two – or whether it will survive at all. “We in the Energy Committee of Congress are confused whether the NOC will be abolished or not,” Congresswoman Fawzia Karwan, a member of the Committee told the Libya Herald this afternoon, following the announcement of the move from the Prime Minister’s office .
The Committee was trying to table a meeting with the head of NOC, Nuri Berween and the Oil and Gas Ministry to clarify the situation.
NOC staff based at its headquarters in Tripoli are known to be deeply opposed to any move or split. Last year, after the government announced that the whole NOC would go to Benghazi, the decision was swiftly annulled following staff protests.
Meanwhile, there are now growing demands in the south of the country that a state oil operation be headquartered in the region. [/restrict]