Turkish media: Oil-tanker seized in Libyan smuggling hub

Turkish media: Oil-tanker seized in Libyan smuggling hub
2 min read
03 March, 2017
According to reports in Turkish media on Thursday, the Haci Telli was seized on 24 February following disputes over oil payments.
Shipwrecks are seen on the coast near Zuwarah, May 2015 [Archive/AFP]
A Turkish-flagged oil tanker has been seized by armed men in the Libyan city of Zuwarah, according to reports in Turkish media on Thursday.

The Haci Telli had sailed from the Turkish port of Tuzla to Malta before arriving in Zuwarah on 24 February, reported the Deniz News Agency.

It said that the operator of the tanker is the Istanbul-based Transpacific Shipping, adding that the vessel had been scheduled to travel onwards from Zuwarah to Lavaleta in Malta.

Members of the ships crew have been held hostage since 24 February, according to reports in Turkish media, due to disagreements over oil payments.

Oil smuggling has become a lucrative trade in Zuwarah since the overthrow of Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, during a NATO-backed uprising, with local smugglers taking advantage of the collapse of central authority in the Libyan state.

Zuwarah is also regarded as a hotspot in the people-smuggling trade.

Tripoli authorities have tried to clampdown on the illicit trade from Zuwarah.

In February 2016 a Sierra Leone-flagged oil tanker carrying nationals from the Ukraine, Turkey, and Azerbaijan was seized off the coast of Zuwarah heading towards Malta by the Tripoli Coast Guard.

According to The Libyan Express, it was carrying 1.5 million litres of petrol from Zuwarah.

This year, in January the Tripoli-based and UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) - one of two rival governmental structures in the country - announced in a statement reported by Reuters plans to clampdown on fuel smuggling from Zuwarah and the nearby al-Zawiya port.

The statement issued by the GNA's Presidential Council provided no details as to when the measure would come into effect, but was issued after the country's National Oil Corporation chairman accused local armed groups of smuggling fuel along Libya's Medditeranean coast.