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Libya Threatens to Sink Tankers Looking to Deal with Eastern Ports

Ali Zeidan, the Libyan Prime Minister, has warned all countries and energy companies around the world that any crude tanker attempting to load oil at the eastern ports that have been seized by rebels may be sunk.

Since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown two years ago, Libya’s new government has struggled to exert full control over the country. Groups of rebels, militia, and tribesmen in the east used the instability to increase their influence and exert some autonomous control over the region, taking over three important ports and eventually creating a regional government to rule Cyrenaica.

The three ports now under the control of the government of Cyrenaica are; Ras Lanuf, Es Sider, and Zueitina, which handled 600,000 barrels a day of Libya’s crude oil exports.

The Libyan government tried to negotiate an end to the protests and regain control of the vital ports, but these talks failed. The rebel groups are determined to achieve greater autonomy from the ruling powers in Tripoli, and have now suggested that they will begin trying to independently ship oil out of the ports for sale on the world markets, very much following the lead set by Iraqi Kurdistan as it split itself from Bagdad.

Related article: Prospects Grim for Libyan Oil Recovery

On Wednesday the Libyan navy was forced to fire warning shots at a tanker that the state-run National Oil Company believed was trying to load crude oil at one of the ports that had been under rebel control for six months; Ali Zeidan then released his warning to the world.

Zeidan said that “any country or company or gang trying to send tankers to take oil from the seized ports without coordinating with the NOC, we will deal with them, even if we are forced to destroy or sink them. We warn all countries there will be no leniency.”

Reuters reports that the groups in control of the ports have promised to guarantee the security of any vessels wishing to dock, although it is unknown exactly how they will offer security against the country’s navy.

The issue with the rebels is proving to be a major challenge to the success of Zeidan’s government, and one that has forced some to try and instigate a parliamentary vote of no-confidence against him. Zeidan may choose to reshuffle his cabinet in order to shake things up and avoid the vote.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com

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