Exclusive: First Libya crude cargo bound for Italy

LONDON Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:04am EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Libya's first crude oil cargo to be shipped in months sailed from the eastern port of Marsa el Hariga on September 25 bound for Italy, Libya's port authority chief told Reuters on Tuesday.

The country, formerly Africa's, third-largest producer, had exported only two other crude oil cargoes since a rebellion erupted against former leader Muammar Gaddafi in February. Gaddafi was toppled last month.

Capt. Ramadan Boumadyan, chairman of the designated committee at Libya's Ports & Maritime Transport Authority, said the Hellas Warrior was carrying a cargo of 381,000 barrels of Libyan crude. "It left on September 25 to Italy," he said in an interview.

The tanker's manager, Polembros Shipping, declined to comment. The Hellas Warrior was last reported in the Mediterranean between Malta and Italy, with the French port of Fos as its destination, AIS tracking data on Reuters showed.

Libya's pre-war production was around 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil. A senior source in the National Oil Corporation told Reuters last week the OPEC member's oil production is set to reach 500,000 bpd by early October, helping to boost revenues badly needed to kickstart the economy after seven months of war.

Separately, the Trident Hope tanker sailed from the western Libyan port of Mellitah on Tuesday with the first cargo of condensate to be exported since Gaddafi was ousted from power, Mellitah's harbor master told Reuters.

Capt. Hussein el Khemri said a further tanker was due to arrive in Mellitah on Wednesday with a crude oil cargo. "The vessel will be for domestic consumption," he said.

Boumadyan said Libya's cargo and oil ports were operational, adding that the offshore Bouri terminal in the west of the country was also working.

"We are working hard to make everything run normally at the ports," he said. "I think everything will be back to normal in a month's time."

PORT SECURITY BOOSTED

Major oil terminals including Brega and Tobruk in the east were not damaged, and Zawiyah in the west has been working for the past three weeks and receiving gasoline shipments, he said.

There were no reports of any damage to infrastructure at the major eastern terminal of Ras Lanuf, which had witnessed heavy fighting nearby, Boumadyan said.

"There could be one sunken tug boat near one of the quays, but there is no problem or any obstacle for ships entering," he added.

General cargo and container ports including Benghazi in the east and Khoms and Misrata in the west were working.

"Tripoli is operational. We have some slight damage to the quay because of (NATO) air strikes on some of the frigates alongside the quays, but it is small damage," Boumadyan said.

Despite the resumption of commercial activity, London's marine insurance market has kept Libya on its list of high-risk areas, and underwriters are looking for a stable period in the country before considering a de-listing.

Boumadyan said the interim government had boosted security at the country's ports in recent weeks.

"At the entrance to all our ports, the revolutionaries are there and they are secured," he said. "We have had no problems in the past three weeks regarding security. The ports are safe."

(editing by Jane Baird)

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