Libyan motorists' patience wears thin as many petrol stations shut for week

TRIPOLI Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:30am EDT

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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Angry motorists in Libya's capital Tripoli queued to fill up on Thursday, some having slept in their cars for nights as petrol stations awaited promised supplies from a state oil firm.

"I have been queuing in front of this gas station for two days," said one driver in a long line at a petrol station in central Tripoli. "It is very depressing. My kids have finished their exams and I want to go out with them but unfortunately we cannot".

Libya is in turmoil as the government struggles to control the militias who helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority and seize oil ports at will.

The North African country has struggled to keep the 120,000 barrel a day Zawiya refinery that supplies western Libya running after protesters closed the connecting El Sharara field.

State oil firm Brega Petroleum Marketing Company, which is in charge of delivering fuel to petrol stations, said a lack of security at some petrol stations where motorists were lining up made it difficult to deliver supplies.

"We supplied several petrol stations with a large amount of fuel," said Brega spokesman Fathi al-Hasmi. "Also another tanker with fuel arrived at Zawiya port, but the security problems remains."

Officials at Zawiya refinery declined to comment, while state-owned National Oil Corp, Brega's parent firm, could not be reached.

Ordinary Libyans, some taking it in turns with relatives to keep their place in queues, were getting increasingly fed up.

Waiting motorist Mohamed Abdullah Ajwaid said: "Most of the gas stations in Tripoli are closed, and we do not know the reason."

On Wednesday, acting oil minister Omar Shakmak said Libya had started diverting cargoes from its two offshore fields used for exports, its last two fields unaffected by the wave of protests at oilfields.

This will further reduce exports, which have fallen to less than 200,000 barrels per day from 1.4 million bpd when the protests started in July, eroding public finances.

(Additional reporting by Feras Bosalum; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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