TRIPOLI: Libya has accused striking guards who have seized oil export terminals of trying to make shipments for their own profit and threatened military action against any unauthorized vessel that docks.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan issued the warning late Thursday, three weeks into the action by the security guards that has halted virtually all loadings at key terminals on the central coast.
“A group of guards at oil terminals in the central region has decided to bring vessels they have organized themselves to export oil for their own profit,” Zeidan charged.
“Any vessel not under contract to the National Oil Co. (NOC) that approaches the terminals will be bombed from the air and the sea,” he warned, adding he had the backing of the General National Congress, the highest political body in Libya.
Petroleum Minister Abdel-Bari al-Aroussi said the action by the guards had cost Libya $1.6 billion in lost export revenues since July 25, in a major blow for a nation almost entirely dependent on oil and gas for its foreign exchange earnings.
And Deputy Oil Minister Omar said losses in the first seven months of the year had totaled $2 billion.
Zeidan warned that the government could not allow the loss of exports to go on indefinitely. “If the blockade of the oil terminals continues, the state will be obliged to use all means at its disposal, including those of the army,” he said.
The striking guards accuse Zeidan and Aroussi of awarding export contracts outside longstanding NOC procedures.