By Ibrahim Drissi.
Benghazi, 18 August 2016:
A Greek-flagged tanker, the New Hellas, has docked at the Zueitina oil terminal south of Benghazi, the first since the terminal was reopened earlier this month. However, the 620,000 barrels that is it taking on board is not going for export but being moved for safe storage to Zawia, west of Tripoli.
In a statement, the National Oil Company (NOC) said that following intense negotiations it had secured an agreement “from the relevant parties” to allow the tanker to ship the oil to Zawia.
Ten days ago, after the arrival of a Libyan National Army (LNA) contingent in the town of Zueitina raised fears of fighting around the nearby terminal between it and the Petroleum Facilities Guards, NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla called on both to refrain from any military action that could damage the terminal and meanwhile give the NOC time to move the oil elsewhere.
According to the NOC, the storage tanks at Zueitina currently contain three million barrels of crude and 180,000 barrels of condensate, belonging to Zueitina Oil. The New Hellas is to transport this to Zawia in several trips although there is also a possibility, the NOC statement said, that other tankers would be hired to speed up the transhipment.
Last week, Major-General Abdul Razzaq Al-Nazhouri, the military governor of northern Cyrenaica, declared that the LNA would most certainly take the terminal at Zueitina and those as Sidra ad Ras Lanuf from the PFG whom he described as thieves and mercenaries. He also repeated his earlier warning that any tanker which tried to dock at the terminals without permission would be attacked.
It is something of major coup for Sanalla that he has apparently succeeded in persuading Nazhouri, the LNA, and presumably Khalifa Hafter, the Beida-based Thinni administration and the House of Representatives President Ageela Saleh, to allow the oil to be moved from Zueitina. They have taken the view till now that Sanalla is not the NOC chairman and its Tripoli administration no longer legitimate. For them to agree that the oil should go to Zawia is also remarkable.
Sanalla himself acknowledged this in the NOC statement. “I want to express my appreciation and thanks to all of the parties who responded to our request,” he said, adding that “it was the right thing to do, and I think that shows that when the opportunity arises, we Libyans we can do what is right so that everyone will benefit and avoid what can hurt us all.”