Last month, we reported that Libya faces a “worsening oil and cash crisis”, with oil production down almost 90% because of strikes and threats from armed men.
This week, amid the continued political turmoil — including the brief detention of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, clashes between Government forces and local militias, and assassinations of high-ranking security officials — Reuters reports that renewed protests have halted operationsat Libya’s western ports and oil fields, again reducing production to less than 10% of capacity.
Protests have been ongoing for about three-months, as workers demand a greater share of the oil wealth while the government has tried to reach a deal in order to reinvigorate Libya’s oil industry.
Protests began this summer in Libya’s eastern ports, with workers threatening to make their own arrangements for shipments, but spread to facilities in the west in the autumn.
A brief easing of situation in the western ports meant that exports recovered to around 450,000 bpd over the last month, still far short of Libya’s apacity of around 1.25 million bpd before the 2011 revolution against the Qaddafi regime.
Now only the offshore platforms of Bouri and Al Jurf are operational.
“The latest protests look to be by the same groups with which the government has previously tried to make concessions, so that suggests either the promises have not materialised or the groups are now pushing for more,” analyst Richard Mallinson said.
“Meanwhile, the guards who control the main central/eastern terminals do not show any signs of backing down.”
Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdelaziz said on Monday that the situation was serious but is a “temporary” state of affairs:
We hope to solve this as soon as possible. We have to get the message to the people that this (oil) is their bread and butter that we have to fight for,” he told Reuters after making a speech in Zurich. “I am hopeful this can be resolved without resorting to arms.