By Seraj Essul and Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 20 April 2014:
Confusion surrounds the reopening of Zueitina oil export terminal as, two weeks after . . .[restrict]it was supposedly handed back to the state by federalist protesters led by Ibrahim Jadhran, it remains closed.
“Zueitina is still under force majeure and we will lift this only when we receive official authorisation from the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), confirming that the port is back under their control,” a National Oil Corporation (NOC) official told the Libya Herald. “Until we get this authorisation, we are unable to reopen the port.”
This was echoed by acting Oil and Gas Minister Omar Shackmack, who said that the Ministry was waiting for the green light to reopen the port from the PFG. “Our role is an executive one, involving only the direct workings of the port itself,” he said. The Ministry had met with NOC officials today to discuss the situation at the port, he added, although he did not give any further details.
Even the PFG itself has not been able to offer much clarification, although a spokesperson claimed that it was supposed to take control of the port either tomorrow or the next day. “We are not obliged to meet all the terms of the deal between the two sides,” he said. “Some of these are hard to put into action and do not seem fair to the Libyan people.”
Those working at the port were today unclear about who had control. A Zueitina employee said that, as far as he knew, the port had been handed back to the state. He added, however, that there were still people in military uniforms at the port and he was not sure whether they were members of the PFG or forces operating under Jadhran. A former senior employee said he did not think it had been handed back at all.
“No-one knows what is happening,” another senior oil official said today. Referring to the government and the federalists, he said that both parties were blaming one another for the delays.
Zueitina was closed by strikes and protests staged by members of the PFG over pay and condition in July last year. These protests gradually became part of a larger dispute about federalism and the distribution of oil wealth, which came to be controlled by self-styled federalist leader Jadhran.
Tobruk’s Hariga oil export terminal, which was also handed back to the state a fortnight ago, is now fully operational. The NOC official confirmed that one shipment of approximately 1 million barrels of oil had left the port and said that another export would be loaded once the tanks had been refilled.
When asked about the situation at the other two ports controlled by Jadhran, Es-Sidra and Ras Lanuf, which are supposed to be handed back to the state within the next two weeks, the official expressed doubts that this would go ahead. [/restrict]