Member Alert

Member Alert

Göteborg: 20 April 2018

Libya: Tanker owners and crew at risk when trading oil in Libya

The Swedish Club has been informed by its correspondents Shtewi Legal and Pandi Services in Tripoli about the following problems shipowners may face while trading oil in Libya:

Since the fall of the Gadaffi regime and the subsequent formation of a government recognised by the UN, certain fractions have been taking advantage of the ensuing chaos and have been engaged in the practice of selling government oil assets on the black market. The legitimate government based in Tripoli is determined to stamp out this practice and applying draconian measures against any vessel and crew thought to be part of these operations.

Tankers suspected of being en route to a clandestine loading port are boarded by the Libyan Navy and both crew and vessel are seized and taken to Tripoli to await a further investigation which may lead to a trial.

The investigation could take as long as two years and in fact some crewmembers have been in prison for over two years without any prospect of release in the foreseeable future. The Libyan Judiciary is notoriously slow. During all of this time, the vessels have remained at anchor as a "dead" ship with all the problems that this will generate for the vessel's future operations, should it ever be released.

There is even a case where the Master refused to stop the vessel after being ordered to do so by the Libyan Navy and the vessel was shelled and sank. Such is the state of affairs and the lengths to which the Libyan Government will go to put a stop to oil smuggling.

There is an ongoing case pending where the vessel having discharged fuel oil in October 2017, dropped anchor in the gulf of Sirt awaiting orders. The vessel was seized and the crew removed. Then with Libyan Navy personnel on board the vessel was sailed to Tripoli, where it remains. Shtewi Legal and Pandi acting for the owners were able to obtain the release of the crew who were flown back to the Philippines. However, the officers are still detained in prison. Despite many representations to the Prosecutors office there is still no date set for the trial or even an indication whether a trial will take place or the officers and vessel released.

It is imperative therefore for the safety of the ship and crew that ship owners and charterers take special measures to avoid this happening to them, as set out below:

1. When offering your vessel for charter for a voyage to Libya, obtain from the charterer a guarantee that the cargo they are about to load has been purchased through the National Oil Company of Libya who has sole rights and control of any oil exports.

2. Any charterer approached by cargo interests should establish their legitimacy and their right to load oil from Libya and should be provided with a letter or document to that effect.

3. Product tankers delivering fuel oil to Libya, should, after delivery operations have been completed and the vessel given permission to leave the port, sail directly out of Libyan waters without deviation or delay as such deviation or delay has been interpreted by the authorities as suspicious and giving rise to the accusation that the Master is waiting to load an illegal cargo.

4. When leaving the Libyan coast, all vessels should in no circumstances follow the coast line but head straight out into the Mediterranean.

It is hoped that by following the procedures outlined, shipowners can avoid the disastrous consequences of their vessel and crew being detained indefinitely in Libya.

Member Alert is published by The Swedish Club as a service to members. While the information is believed correct, the Club cannot assume responsibility for completeness or accuracy.

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