By Libya Herald reporter.
Tripoli, 17 September 2015:
Naval authorities based in Tripol say they captured a Russian oil tanker and its crew . . .[restrict]trying to smuggle oil from the western port of Zuwara yesterday.
An official said coastguard units had captured the vessel, the Mekhanik Chebotarev, detaining 11 Russian crew, including one woman, inside Libyan territorial waters.
The seizure unfolded in dramatic fashion on Wednesday, with reports that naval vessels from Italy and Russia raced to the scene but did not intervene. Reuters news agency quoted a senior Tripoli official, Twafik Alskir, as saying: “A Russian-flagged oil tanker was captured this afternoon when it tried to smuggle oil off Zuwara.”
The vessel was moved to Tripoli port later Wednesday but this afternoon marinetraffic.com showed it leaving the port, with its ship tracker stating its destination as Malta. However, it is not clear at this point if it has ben released or is being taken to another Libyan port
Russia, whose embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment, has yet to issue a statement on the matter. Nor is there any news on the status of the crew members.
Zuwara has no oil terminal, and oil tankers do not normally visit the seas around, with the nearest terminal at Zawiya to the east.
It is reported that that the tanker was being filled with oil by smaller vessels out at sea.
Zuwara, whose leaders are nominally part of the Libya Dawn coalition which controls Tripoli, has been a home for Libyan smuggling since the revolution with illegal shipments of fuel going to both Tunisia and Malta.
More recently, Zuwara has become a centre of Libya’s massive people-smuggling trade, with tens of thousands of migrants sent to Europe in small boats and the beaches sometimes festooned with those who drown in the attempt. Earlier this month townspeople held protests against the smuggling gangs.
The seas off Zuwara are presently full of both smuggling boats and NATO warships intercepting them to rescue the migrants on board. [/restrict]