In a show of how unstable Libya is right now, authorities there captured, then lost, then re-captured an oil tanker bearing North Korean flags after it docked and departed from an oil port controlled by rebels in Eastern Libya.
In the aftermath of the debacle, the nation’s legislative branch, the General National Congress, fired Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in a no-confidence vote on Tuesday. The trouble began over the weekend, when Libyan authorities were alerted to a large oil tanker loading up with more than $30 million worth of Libyan oil at a port under the control of rebels in the country’s east, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
On Friday night, the oil tanker Morning Glory pulled “into one of the country’s largest ports with the apparent goal of filling up on Libyan crude that militia leader Ibrahim Jadran is intent on selling. Though Jadran’s militia controls the port, it does not own the oil,” Bloomberg Businessweek reported.
The Libyan government, however, isn’t the only true owner of the oil. It is also owned by Waha Oil, a conglomeration between Libya’s government-owned National Oil Company and three Western companies: Marathon, Hess and ConocoPhillips, according to the Businessweek piece.
The government had a major interest in not letting the Morning Glory reach international waters, where it could escape, but containing the situation proved difficult for the Libyan navy.
Initially, they claimed they had seized control of a tanker on Monday after a weekend standoff, but by Tuesday, their story changed. At one point, “Prime Minister Ali Zeidan threatened to blow up the tanker should it try to leave with any of the oil. When the army refused his orders to fire on the ship, Zeidan sent in a government-backed task force to take control of the tanker,” Bloomberg reported.
The tanker managed to escape, possibly due to poor weather conditions or due to the fact that Libya’s navy is partly comprised of loose maritime networks loyal to the Tripoli-based government, which is considered a task force.
Government officials later located the Morning Glory and helped secure its anchoring — for now, at least.
Unrest in the country and competing armed militias have made for an unstable path in Libya’s post-Gaddafi tenure. The fact that several eastern port terminals are in the hands of rebels isn’t helping matters. Instead, it is proving fruitful as a course in destabilizing the nation.