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Es Sider is the largest of several ports in eastern Libya that have been shut since the end of July due to protests by security guards and oil workers making demands over pay and politics.
Since the protests began many of Libya’s oil fields have been closed and exports, a vital source of revenue for the country, have fallen to less than 500,000 barrels a day, from 1.25 million barrels a day before 2011.
The loss of export revenue has cost the Libyan government around $2 billion so far, and risk serious damage to the country’s economy. The government believes that the strikes are being organised by federalists who are pushing for more independence in the East, after starting the initial uprising against Gaddafi in 2011.
Fearful that security guards at the ports will independently try and illegally sell oil stored at the terminals in order to raise money for the federalists, Libya’s ministry of defence has warned that any tankers illegally exporting crude from Libyan ports will be attacked and destroyed.
Last week military forces fired upon a Liberian tanker that was spotted close to the country’s largest oil export terminal, believing that the vessel sought to load crude oil being sold by the armed protestors. Abdul Razak al-Shbahi, a spokesman for the ministry of defence, said that the tanker fled Libyan waters before loading any crude, or being destroyed.
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The Libyan armed forces have increased their coastal patrols, and three air bases have been put on alert, with instructions to bomb any vessel that entered Libyan waters in order to prevent any illegal sales of Libyan crude.
Shbahi confirmed to Reuters that “three air bases have been put on heightened alert to strike and destroy by any means any oil tanker that did not have any contractual deals with the country's national oil company.
The defence ministry will not hesitate to respond in any way possible against anyone who tries to steal the country's wealth.”
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com
James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…