By Sami Zaptia.
London, 17 January 2020:
Libya’s state National Oil Corporation (NOC) today strongly condemned calls to blockade oil ports ahead of Sunday’s Berlin Conference on Libya.
“The oil and gas sector is the lifeblood of the Libyan economy and the single source of income for the Libyan people. The oil and the oil facilities belong to the Libyan people. They are not cards to be played to solve political matters,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in the NOC statement released today.
“Shutting down oil exports and production will have far-reaching and predictable consequences. If the shutdown is prolonged, we face collapse of the exchange rate, a huge and unsustainable increase in the national deficit, the departure of foreign contractors, and the loss of future production which may take years to restore. The main beneficiaries of this act will be other oil-producing states, and the harm will be entirely to Libyans. This is like setting fire to your own house.”, he added.
Sanalla said that “If the fields are shut, the production loss will be immediate. We have limited available storage at our main ports. If they are closed, we will need to reduce production immediately, and to shut down entirely when available storage is filled. That could be in as little as five days.”
He also warned and reminded that “Blockading oil facilities is a criminal act. If these threats are carried out, NOC will prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent possible under Libyan and international law. NOC also calls on the security forces claiming to protect its facilities to prevent any attempts at start a blockade, and warns that their failure to do so will force the corporation to look at other options to protect vital facilities that belong to the Libyan people.”
Meanwhile, Alumda Al-Sanussi al-Zwey, head of the Zwey tribe which inhabits large parts of Libya’s eastern oil crescent region where about two-thirds of the country’s hydrocarbons are produced, was quoted by Libya’s eastern-based LANA state news agency as ‘‘announcing the start of the movement
to close oilfields and oil ports’’ assuring that the movement aims to ”dry up the sources of terrorist financing through oil revenues’’, as well as ‘‘to demand the return of the (National) Oil Corporation to its (original) headquarters in Benghazi’’.
The tribal leader told LANA that the movement “closed the Sariri oilfield today and (as a result this) stopped work at Zweitina oil port”.
Worryingly he added that he was quoted as saying that tomorrow (Saturday) morning will see the suspension of all oil fields and thus the suspension of all ports in the east of the country’’.
The tribal leader pointed out that ‘‘all tribes in the region are involved in this movement until the demands are implemented’’.