Employee Strike Shuts Down Libya’s Only Onshore Oil Export Port

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, February 9, 2015

Libya's Hariga oil export port is still closed due to a strike by security guards demanding salary payments, a port official said on Monday.

"There are talks with the guards to end the protest but the port is still closed," said the official, who asked not to be named.

The port, located in the eastern city of Tobruk, shut down on the weekend after the guards complained they had not been paid in time, a port official said on Sunday.

The closure will lower oil output to less than 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), a fraction of the 1.6 million bpd Libya used to pump before the 2011 uprising.

The terminal used to export 120,000 bpd. It is the country's last functioning export port apart from two offshore fields.

All other ports and most oilfields have shut down due to fighting nearby or pipeline blockages by rival factions.

The guards at Hariga complained their salaries had not been paid, preventing Greek-registered crude oil tanker Minerva Zoe from loading 725,000 barrels of oil, the official said. The port closed on Saturday morning.

The fall of oil exports to a trickle has caused a budget crisis, delaying salary payments and halting development projects and hampering the supply of drugs to hospitals.

In another sign of failing state services, several districts in the capital Tripoli saw outages for 10 hours on Sunday, residents said. Power had already gone off for six hours on Saturday.

A spokesman for the state power firm declined to comment but officials have previously blamed gas shortages.

The Tripoli government has also blamed airstrikes by the internationally recognized government on the western town of Zuwara, forcing the nearby the Mellitah gas and oil complex to lower output for security reasons.

Four years after a NATO-backed uprising ended Muammar Gaddafi's one-man rule in 2011, Libya continues to struggle with instability as two rival administrations compete for power and warring armed factions skirmish for control of territory across the North African state.

Western military intervention in Libya in 2011 brought with it an influx of weapons, with Gulf Arab states also supplying arms to rebels, many of whom now refuse to hand them over to the internationally recognized government headed by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani.

Last August, Thani and his cabinet were forced to leave Tripoli for the east when militants from Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) seized the capital. The new rulers of Tripoli have set up their own administration, the General National Congress (GNC), which has not been recognized by the United Nations and world powers.

Libya's violence has drawn strong condemnation from both the UN and European Union, and rights group Amnesty International has accused several factions of war crimes.

According to Amnesty, militants in the west showed “an utter disregard” for civilian casualties and accused them of indiscriminately lobbing artillery fire into crowded civilian neighborhoods, damaging homes and hospitals.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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