Guards at the eastern Libyan port of Zueitina have halted crude shipments. To load crude, tankers will be required to register with the National Oil Company(NOC) linked to the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) government.
So far oil companies and tankers have continued to register only with the neutral National Oil Company with headquarters in Tripoli. They have refused to risk breaking off relations to deal with the eastern-based HoR government's NOC. Closing down the port and requiring this new registration are developments that not only threaten the dialogue process but also threatens to break the country into two. The two institutions which enabled the country to function as one entity on the international scene were the Libyan Central Bank and the National Oil Company(NOC). The NOC deposits funds it collects from exported oil and deposits them in the Central Bank which distributes funds to both rival governments. Both institutions have remained neutral between the two rival governments. The UN warned against any attempts to try to alter the situation by one side or the other:The HoR has ignored that warning for some time. It has attempted to set up its own control of the Central Bank by appointing a rival head of the bank. It created its own National Oil Company and has been attempting with little success to have oil companies work through it rather than the neutral NOC. Now Ibrahim Jodran or Jadhran has obviously told the guards only to load tankers if they are registered with the rival NOC, forcing any companies who want to load oil to work through the eastern government alone. The neutral National Oil Company with headquarters in Tripoli has declared force majeure at Zueitina meaning that circumstances beyond its control make it unable to carry out contracts.Ali al-Hasy a Petroleum Guard spokesperson said that vessels registered with the neutral NOC are "illegitimate" and will not be permitted to load at the port. The closure of the port has also meant that the As-Sarah field has suspended crude exports since no tankers are loading crude.The level of oil production before the revolution was about 1.6 million barrels a day of crude. With the port closure Libya production will drop to about 400,000 barrels a day. The Zueitina port only began exports on October 5 after a five month halt due to protests.The Petroleum Guards are a militia under the control of Ibrahim Jodran or Jadhran. There is a long interesting inteview with Jodran at euronews. This is the same person who shut down oil ports in eastern Libya for many months:Khalifa Haftar, commander of the HoR armed forces, and Jadhran used to be allies and both still are opposed to the GNC, but of late Jadhran and Haftar are at odds. Jadhran even accuses Haftar of attempting to assassinate him and has been exceedingly critical of him. Jadrhan's actions will have the effect of splitting Libya in two and probably sabotaging any attempt at forming a Government of National Reconciliation. Given Jadhran's moves will disrupt oil supplies from Libya and helped drive up the price of oil today perhaps some action will be taken against him by the international community.
In this regard, UNSMIL calls on the parties to safeguard the national institutions by refraining from taking any steps that could compromise the neutrality of these institutions that are crucial for Libya’s economic survival.
In 2013, Jadhran set up the Cyrenaica Political Bureau and secured control of eastern ports, namely Sidra, Ras Lanuf and Zueitina. In August 2013, Jathran issued the “Ras Lanuf Declaration”, the declaration asks for the right to “govern our own affairs”. By October 2013, Jathran’s militia , the Cyrenaica Self-Defense Force, was estimated to number 17,500 men.Jadhran even attempted to load oil and sell it independently of the NOC in 2014. He loaded the tanker Morning Glory with oil at Sidra and it managed to break through a government blockade. The US located the ship and took it over and returned it to the Libyan government. US Ambassador, Deborah Jones, said that Jadhran's actions were a theft from the Libyan people. Now Jadhran will have the blessing of the internationally-recognized HoR government which all along has wanted to have companies sign up with its rival NOC. As the pro-GNC Libya Observer observes:
The eastern government of Abdullah Al-Thanni aims to take control of oil sector, which is still under the main oil corporation in Tripoli, and divert oil revenues to its bank in Al-Bayda.Will the US consider this a theft from the Libyan people since it bypasses the neutral NOC in Tripoli and also the neutral Libya Central Bank? Don't count on it.