Tripoli gov't in Libya captures suspected Russian oil tanker

A Russian-flagged oil tanker and its crew trying to smuggle oil from port of Zawara captured, according to self-declared Tripoli government.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Libya is going through a transition after its bloody 2011 civil war.

Self-declared Tripoli government in Libya which is backed by Libya Dawn said that a Russian-flagged oil tanker and its crew trying to smuggle oil from the port of Zawara was captured on Wednesday.

About four years after the civil war deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi who ruled the country for 42- years, Libya has two rival governments striving to gain control of the country - one Libya’s internationally recognised government, governing the eastern cities of Bayda and Tobruk, and the other self-declared after its forces took over Tripoli last year. Both governments are backed by loose coalitions of armed groups.

A senior official with Tripoli-allied naval forces, Twafik Alskir said 11 Russian crew had been detained. He added that the tanker and crew had been taken to Tripoli port.

"A Russian-flagged oil tanker was captured this afternoon when it tried to smuggle oil off Zawara," Alskir said. Further details were not immediately available.

The internationally recognised government has not commented on the issue yet.

The conflict over oil-rich North African country’s oil ports and fields is still ongoin and the United Nations is trying to bring a negotiated end to the conflict.

Since the civil war, Libya’s oil industry has been hit by unrest. Several major ports and oilfields have been closed down due to the conflict. Production is less than half the 1.6 million barrels per day, the North African state produced before 2011. Also different actors in the conflict have sought to sell Libyan oil without the permission of the weak central government authorities at the time.

Libya’s rival governments fight for control of National Oil Corporation. The rival governments claim to be the legitimate authority for the state-run National Oil Corporation, though foreign clients are wary of breaking with the established state energy firm in the capital. 

The internationally recognised government, based in the east since losing Tripoli a year ago, wants oil firms to discuss purchase contracts with its own officials instead of the state oil firm under the control of a rival government which is based in the capital.

In the mid 1950s, Libya gained significance with the growing suspicion that the country might produce oil. Altogether six major oil fields were discovered in 1959 and made the state wealthy.

TRTWorld and agencies