Libyan rivals clash over eastern oil ports and Tunisia crossing, declares ‘force majeure’ for two biggest oil ports, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf

BENGHAZI/TRIPOLI, Libya, Dec 14 (Reuters) – Armed factions allied to Libya’s two rival governments fought over eastern oil ports and the main border crossing to Tunisia on Sunday, forcing closure of the two biggest oil export terminals, officials said.

In clashes reminiscent of the 2011 civil war that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, the internationally recognised government based in the east sent jets to bomb a rival force trying to seize the oil facilities of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf and started its own offensive near the Tunisian border.

The escalation comes as the United Nations is planning to resume peace talks in the coming days to try to end a struggle between former rebels who helped topple Gaddafi and now vie for power and control of oil production…

An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna's Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya

ISIS supporters in the town of Derna, Libya, now officially allied with Islamic State (October 3, 2014, Reuters)

See also: Libya declares ‘force majeure’: Dec 14 (Reuters) – Libya has declared force majeure for the country’s two biggest oil exports ports, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, the Tripoli-based state National Oil Corp (NOC) said on Sunday.

Oil production flowing to the two eastern ports would be gradually shut down, NOC said in a statement, blaming clashes nearby between armed factions allied to Libya’s two rival governments. Only a minimum oil staff would stay on site.

Force majeure is a legal waiver for contractual obligations. [In other words, there will be no oil exported from these ports]

Note: The news reports are even-handed but do not be fooled: on one side is the elected secular government and on the other side is Libya Dawn — associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. There are also far more radical Islamist groups in the country, including Ansar al-Sharia and Islamic State itself.


As for the force majeure, in normal times this would be expected to drive oil prices up.  But with the business with Saudi Arabia determined to keep the prices low (for whatever reason — one theory is that Saudi wants to drive shale and oil sand producers (USA & Canada) out of business; a second theory is that it is aimed at Iran) I don’t expect to see prices rise.  

More delightful reading: U.N. Sahel envoy says Libya turmoil could destabilize neighbors