TRIPOLI, September 2, 2013 (AFP) – A weeks long blockade by guards at key Libyan oil terminals has sent production plunging to under 100,000 barrels per day in a major blow to the economy, an official said Monday.
Guards, mostly ex rebels who helped topple veteran strongman Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 uprising, have been on strike since late July and imposed a blockade on oil terminals.
They accuse the authorities of corruption by selling crude in excess of documented cargo, while the government say the guards have been trying to sell oil on the black market.
“Oil production now stands at less than 100,000 barrels per day,” Saad Ben Shrada, a member of parliament’s energy commission, told Al-Hurra TV.
His comments come after the commission issued a statement saying the production plunge is costing Libya several billion dollars in lost revenues.
The commission urged “the thwars (ex rebels) to stop this act of vandalism. Oil production is at almost zero,” the statement said.
Libya was producing between 1.5 million to 1.6 million barrels of crude oil per day before the striking guards imposed the blockade on the country’s main export terminals.
The parliamentary commission warned that the militia’s actions “will encourage other (groups) to carry out similar acts.”
Libya is almost entirely dependent on oil and gas for its foreign exchange earnings, with hydrocarbons accounting for more than 80 percent of its GNP and up to 97 percent of its exports.
The commission also took a swipe at Libya’s National Oil Company (NOC) for declaring on August 21 a force majeure at the main terminals of Zueitina, Ras Lanouf, Al Sedra and Brega in the east of the country.
The measure exonerates the NOC from its responsibilities in case it breaches contracts to supply oil, if it invokes exceptional circumstances.
The commission said the strike action has provoked “a budget shortfall” since the national budget was calculated on the basis of production standing at 1.6 million barrels a day, for an average price of $90 per barrel.
The protest strike kicked off with policemen and border guards demanding back pay.
Armed guards in charge of protecting Libya’s vital oil industry were formed by the defence ministry after the fall of Kadhafi, and include rebels who helped topple him.
Since the uprising two years ago, Libya’s new rulers have been caught in a tug of war with the former militiamen, who use weapons they amassed during the revolt whenever their interests are at risk.