(Updates security situation in first three paragraphs.)
April 16 (Bloomberg) -- An oil tanker started loading crude at Libya’s eastern port of Hariga for the first time since July. The company operating the ship said the facility was clear of gunmen who helped decimate the nation’s crude sales.
The Aegean Dignity started to load at Hariga terminal at 11 a.m. local time, Mohamed Elharari, spokesman for state-run National Oil Corp., said by phone today. The operation will take about 24 hours. Christos Lampropoulos, a vessel operator at Arcadia Ship Management Co., the Athens-based manager of the tanker, said people working on the vessel saw no signs of armed protesters who previously halted exports from the facility.
“They didn’t see any people with guns or soldiers and it creates a feeling more secure,” he said by phone today. “There’s not any indication that it was under occupation or under restrictions.”
Libya, the holder of Africa’s largest crude reserves, has dropped to the smallest producer among the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries as unrest deepened since the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi three years ago. The nation, which pumped close to 1.6 million barrels a day until the start of 2011, is now producing 330,000 barrels a day, Elharari said today.
Aegean Dignity is due to complete loading by noon tomorrow at 30,000 barrels an hour, Lampropoulos said. It will take its cargo to Italy.
“This is the first loading in around nine months from any of the rebel-controlled ports in the east and the first concrete positive from the deals announced just over a week ago,” Richard Mallinson, an Energy Aspects analyst in London, said by phone yesterday. “But it is worth remembering that the market is only taking this as a very limited positive development” because other terminals remain shut.
Rebels seeking a share in oil revenue for their region took control of four of Libya’s nine oil ports in July, inflicting $14 billion in losses, the official news agency LANA reported today, citing Yassin Hammad, director of Hariga oil terminal. The central government reached an agreement with some rebels earlier this month to open Hariga and Zueitina, which have combined capacity of 180,000 barrels a day.
Es Sider, Libya’s largest terminal, and Ras Lanuf are still shut. State-run National Oil is in the process of lifting force majeure on Zueitina, Oil Ministry Measurement Director Ibrahim Al Awami said April 10, referring to the legal step that protects companies from liability when operations are disrupted for reasons beyond their control.
Vienna-based oil company OMV AG booked the Aegean Dignity tanker to load a cargo of Sarir crude from Hariga between April 15 and 16, two traders said on April 11, asking not to be identified because the matter isn’t public.