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Oil Tankers Seized After Gun Battle in Libya

Two vessels illicitly carrying crude from Libya have been captured by the country’s naval forces after an hours-long gun battle on the coast of Tripoli, according to the navy’s spokesperson.

A Ukraine-flagged ship called Routa and another un-affiliated ship called Stark were captured early Friday morning near Sidi Said, according to Ayoub Qassem of the Libyan navy, who spoke with Reuters.

"Clashes lasted for three hours, but the two tankers were successfully seized," Qassem said.

The official did not specify whether the gun battle caused any causalities, and did not identify the nationalities of the crew members.

The lack of a unified governing body in Libya had made the North African nation a haven for smugglers and traffickers who bring boatloads of people to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. Fighting between the two rival governments and related militant groups has affected the recovery of Libya’s oil sector since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Libya’s NOC has said that it would target production of around 1.2 million bpd by the end of this year, but this level is currently nowhere in sight. As per OPEC’s secondary sources, Libya – exempt from the production cuts due to the violence – produced 622,000 bpd in March, down from 683,000 bpd in February.

Related: World Bank Maintains Oil Price Forecast At $55

Still, there is some tangible progress in the oil sector.

The El-Feel oil field in western Libya—operated by a joint venture between Italy’s Eni and Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC)—reopened last week after two years, and expects to start pumping oil as soon as a power outage is fixed, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

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Should the field, also known as Elephant, start producing soon, it could add up to 90,000 bpd to Libya’s total oil output.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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