First oil in two years leaves Libya's port
An oil tanker left the Libyan port of Ras Lanouf for Italy on Tuesday, an official said, the first shipment since fighting erupted over control of the "oil crescent" two years ago.
Oil is war-ravaged Libya's key asset, and rival administrations have been vying for control of its oil wealth and territory since the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi and plunged the country into chaos.
"The Maltese-flagged vessel Seadelta has just left Ras Lanouf port with 776,000 barrels of oil, going to Italy. This is the first shipment of oil from Ras Lanouf port since November 2014,” said Omran el-Fitouri, oil exports coordinator at the port.
The shipment is also the first to leave any of the four ports in the area since they were seized by military strongman Khalifa Haftar last week.
His forces handed the ports over to the National Oil Corporation (NOC), which said that crude exports would resume "immediately" from Ras Lanuf and another of the four, Zuwaytina.
The NOC says it is loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), but also to the rival parliament based in the east which supports Haftar's forces and has refused to give the GNA its vote of confidence.
On Sunday, fighters loyal to the UN-backed unity government launched an attack aimed at retaking the key eastern oil ports, but were repelled by Haftar's forces.
The fighting forced the Maltese-flagged tanker to turn back out to sea for safety, abandoning plans to load crude oil at Ras Lanouf.
Other ports in the crescent have been operating intermittently in recent years, but if the breakthrough at Ras Lanouf – one of Libya's biggest ports – is sustained it could lend support to the status quo after the tussle for control.