Libyan tribesmen stepped up efforts to persuade oil ports guards to end protests that curtailed the North African nation’s crude exports, choking its economic lifeline, a spokesman for the security force said.
“I expect the situation will ease in the coming few days,” said Walid Hassan, spokesman for the Petroleum Facilities Guard, in an interview yesterday from Tripoli. The PFG is an 18,000-strong unit of Libya’s military force.
The guards on strike “number in the hundreds only,” Hassan said of the armed men who seized in July control of the main oil ports, including Es Sider, Libya’s largest with a loading capacity of up to 350,000 barrels a day. Their protest cut crude output to less than half the 1.6 million barrel-a-day level pumped before the 2011 revolution which ousted Muammar Qaddafi, costing the oil reliant economy at least $1.6 billion, Oil Minister Abdulbari Al-Arusi said on Aug. 15.
There are 4,000 men patrolling the petroleum facilities in the eastern region, home to the Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, Brega and Zueitina terminals which, in addition to Hariga, in the far east, export crude from Libya’s richest oil area.
Hassan confirmed that the prosecutor has ordered the arrest of Ibrahim Al Jedran, head of the PFG’s central region force after the newly appointed PFG commander Brigadier Idris Bukhamada fired him for disobeying orders to reopen the ports.
Ruining the Economy
The PFG have been demanding more arms, vehicles and better pay. They resorted to closing the ports in July when Al Jedran and loyal PFG members accused the oil ministry of illegal oil sales, prompting angry reactions from the government.
Prime Minister Ali Zaidan repeatedly accused the PFG of ruining Libya’s economy in press conferences earlier this month. The oil ministry has organized visits to Es Sider and Hariga to show the media that every drop of oil is accounted for.
In a document dated Aug. 18, Libya’s state-run National Oil Corp. declared force majeure on crude and refined product exports from Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, Zueitina and Brega ports. Oil Ministry Inspection and Measurement Director Ibrahim Al Awami yesterday said he expected the force majeure to end later this week.
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