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Op-Ed: Eastern Libya authorities plan to export more oil illegally

Elmagrabi said that the shipment of 650,000 barrels of crude was just the first. He expected payment within a month to an account at Bank Al Elihad in Jordan. He did not disclose the amount. The shipment is a direct challenge to the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Tripoli-based National Oil Company (NOC) recognized by it as the sole company authorized to sell Libyan oil. The Tripoli NOC is recognized by traders such as Glencore Plc and the Vitol Group.

The Indian-flagged Distya Ameya was unable to land in Malta after it was refused entry to Maltese waters. Both the Tripoli-based NOC and Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), have condemned the shipment as illegal. Kobler said the shipment contravened UN Security Resolution 2278. The rival eastern NOC has been trying for several months now to export independently, according to Riccardo Fabiani, an analyst with the Eurasia group. He said the eastern administration needs the revenue from sales but that its main goal was to undermine the GNA. Fabiani said: “No one is willing to accept that the eastern government is able to sell oil independently because it would have devastating consequences for Libya. It would be much, much harder to form a national unity government in that case.”
Some people are willing to buy the oil. The present shipment was sold to DSA Consultancy FZC based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE supports Haftar and the HoR.

Just two days ago the head of the Tripoli-based NOC, Mustafa Sanalla, said the export had been successfully prevented. Employees of AGOCO refused to load the tanker when they found out the sale was not booked through the Tripoli-based NOC. Petroleum Forces Guards at three ports in the oil crescent support the GNA and its oil company. It is headed by Ibrahim Jodhran, who also supports the GNA. However, the Hariga terminal at Tobruk is not controlled by them. There are reports that Jodhran has been fired and replaced by the Al-Thinni government. If this is true, more terminals could be under the control of those supporting the eastern-based NOC.

Sanalla has informed the Presidency Council of the GNA of the sale and asked it to use its international connections to stop the tanker. Last time a tanker, the Morning Glory, tried to sell independently of the Tripoli NOC, the U.S. intercepted the vessel south of Cyprus and it was taken back to Tripoli. A video of the incident is appended.This time around no one seems to be intercepting the Ameya as yet. The Ameya has turned off its tracking equipment. A senior Maltese official questioned whether the oil was actually headed to Malta as there is no refinery there. The official insisted that the money for the oil would have to be paid to the Central Bank of Libya which is cooperating with the GNA. The official seems wrong about this.The Tobruk government intends to keep the revenue, another challenge to the GNA.

The Libyan representative at the UN Ibrahim Dabbashi has asked the UN sanctions committee to blacklist the Distya Ameya. Dabbashi was actually fired by the Al-Thinni government because he was trying to block a sale by the eastern-based NOC. Dabbashi supports the GNA and the Tripoli NOC. The UN simply ignored the announcement that he was fired according to the Herald.
It is hardly surprising that there is continuing conflict between the HoR, Haftar and the GNA over the control of oil. The GNA needs to show its power by making sure the Ameya is seized and then gaining control of the eastern oil ports. It is not clear that the GNA continues to have support from the Petroleum Facilities Guard. If it still does, one would think that there would be statements to that effect.

There is a lack of storage capacity at Hariga according to an Arabian Gulf Oil Co. official. AGOCO an NOC unit had reduced output to 130,000 barrels a day from 230,000. He said that a tanker moored at Hariga had been blocked from loading a cargo of one million barrels. He said that AGOCO would need to half production in four days if the situation persisted. Prior to Gadaffi’s overthrow in 2011, Libya pumped about 1.6 million barrels a day. That is now reduced to just 330,000 barrels a day in March.

The HoR has met many times to pass a confidence vote in the GNA but every meeting has lacked a quorum or been disrupted. Kobler has not announced where and when the next meeting will be. Perhaps he has another plan. Kobler continues to urge support for the GNA and recognition of it in spite of the fact that it is breaking the rules of the Libyan Political Agreement and operating without a legislature, the HoR. The main sticking point to an agreement is the demand in the east that General Haftar remain as commander in chief of the Libyan Army.

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