(Adds details on military buildup, background)
By Ayman al-Warfalli
BENGHAZI, Libya, March 13 A senior official at
Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) warned on Monday of a
possible declaration of force majeure at the Es Sider and Ras
Lanuf oil terminals, as air strikes continued and rival forces
mobilised fighters in the area.
NOC board member Jadalla Alaokali said force majeure, a
legal waiver for contractual obligations, would "likely" be
declared if violence continued, though he gave no timeframe.
Libya's eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) lost
control of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf to a rival faction, the
Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), 10 days ago. Both sides have
since been mobilising, and the LNA has been conducting daily air
strikes in the area. Most workers have left the ports.
Es Sider and Ras Lanuf are two of Libya's largest oil ports,
but have been operating at a fraction of their maximum capacity
because of damage in previous rounds of fighting.
Alaokali said Libya's national oil output stood at just over
615,000 barrels per day (bpd), down from around 700,000 bpd
before the conflict around the oil ports broke out.
The BDB says it has handed control of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf
to a unit of Libya's Petroleum Facilities Guard aligned with a
U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, and that the NOC can continue
to operate there.
But it is unclear who is in control on the ground. Oil is no
longer being pumped to Es Sider, forcing Waha Oil Co to halt
production and also affecting output by Harouge Oil Operations.
Both companies are NOC joint ventures.
"It's likely that force majeure will be declared at the two
ports if clashes continue close to them," Alaokali said.
A witness in the Ras Lanuf area said the LNA had mobilised
thousands of men nearby and that air strikes had intensified
late on Sunday. "The noise of the planes was heard over Ras
Lanuf town and the explosions were loud and powerful," he said.
Military officials said the strikes targeted four groups of
BDB fighters, and had inflicted casualties on the BDB and
destroyed some of their vehicles. The claim could not be
The violence in Libya's Oil Crescent has raised concerns of
a new escalation of conflict in Libya between eastern and
western based factions that have been competing for power since
The head of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord
(GNA), Fayez Seraj, has called for the withdrawal of military
forces from the area, and said the Petroleum Facilities Guard
should be brought under the control of the NOC.
His defence minister, a rival of LNA commander Khalifa
Haftar, said late last week that he had requested the urgent
deployment of 600 men to support the Petroleum Facilities Guard
in the Oil Crescent.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Elumami; writing by Aidan Lewis;
editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton)