BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon could have recently had an oil tanker seized by Eurobond holders because of its stinging debt crisis and the government was taking steps to avoid such risks in future, the energy minister said on Thursday.
Lebanon plunged into a $31 billion sovereign default in March, saying it needed to preserve dwindling dollars for vital imports, and has since entered talks with the International Monetary Fund.
Speaking at the presidential palace about an ongoing fuel oil shortage, Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar listed the potential seizure of an oil tanker off its shore by bondholders as among the issues complicating the country’s supplies.
“We have been exposed on this issue to several setbacks including what happened about two weeks ago because we weren’t able to open credit at the central bank in the required time, so there was a risk that the oil tanker would be subject to seizure by the Eurobond holders,” said Ghajar.
“We are studying this issue in order to ultimately reach a result that enables the Lebanese state to not be exposed on this matter,” Ghajar added, according to a presidency statement.
The minister did not mention who the owner of the tanker was and could not immediately be reached for further comment.
An economic rescue plan put forward by Beirut maps out about $83 billion in financial sector losses, but the figures are subject to change depending on the discount taken by foreign and local bondholders.
Beirut is hoping an IMF reform programme can secure billions of dollars in financing and restore economic growth.
Reporting by Eric Knecht and Tom Perry; Editing by Toby Chopra