Libya captures two oil-smuggling tankers after firefight


Libya has more access to crude oil reserves than any other country in Africa. It has always been heavily reliant on fuel exports to power its economy. In other words, crude oil is the major source of revenue.

In January, the country was pumping 715,000 barrels of oil each day: That was its highest level since 2011. But much of that oil, drawn from the ground amid the endemic chaos of Libya, is now syphoned off by smugglers.

Recently, Libyan naval forces arrested two vessels suspected of smuggling oil from the North African country after gun battles lasting several hours to the west of the capital Tripoli, a spokesman for the service explained.

The North African state has become a haven for migrant and oil smugglers who take advantage of the country’s turmoil to ship people and oil across to Europe.

Ayoub Qassem, a spokesman for the Libyan naval forces, said:
“Ukraine-flagged tanker Routa and a vessel with an unspecified African nation’s flag named Stark were captured. Clashes lasted for three hours, but the two tankers were successfully seized.”

However, the incident was said to have occurred in the Sidi Said area west of Tripoli. Qassem did not report any casualties also, he didnt give any details on what happened to the crew of the vessels or their nationalities.

In addition, six years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is still captured in turmoil among rival military factions who once fought against the former leader but then turned against one another in a multi-sided power struggle.

Libya‘s oil infrastructure is also often targeted by fighting or blockades as rival groups seek to gain wealth or leverage. Smugglers believe that the only way to make money is by reaping the country’s major source of national income.

According to Libyan police, fuel smugglers use small boats and tankers containing up to 40,000 litres of refined product. The contents of the ships from Sabratha are then shunted to Malta, 160 miles from the Libyan coast, and also Sicily, where it is sold before reaching the Italian mainland.

This smuggling act has affected the country’s growth. This is because less revenue is being generated from oil sector due to the act. The government is trying its best to curb the situation but seem to get harder on a daily basis.

Some Libyans believed that the increasing oil smuggling rate in the country is due to the fact that some of the agencies meant to secure this sector are corrupt thereby giving way to smugglers to carry on their unfair duties. Libyan intelligence told MEE that the level of corruption has become so pervasive that entire groups of police and coast guard are openly involved in criminal trafficking, especially in the Zawia and Sabratha area.

The Libyan government calls for help from its officials to be just and fair in discharging their duties. It explains that the smugglers are becoming financially robust while country is suffering. The government further reassured that the problem of oil smuggling will be tackled really soon.

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