| BENGHAZI, Libya
BENGHAZI, Libya Aug 20 Libya has restarted oil
exports from its biggest port for the first time since the end
of a year-long blockade, a boost to the central government which
is struggling with a wave of clashes in the capital.
The OPEC member's oil production has risen in the past few
weeks to around 560,000 barrels a day as ports in the east have
resumed work under a deal with a group of federalist rebels,
adding to a crude market that is already well supplied.
But in a reminder of the risk of further instability, the
acting oil minister said he had resigned, while heavy fighting
erupted in a suburb of the main eastern city Benghazi between
forces of a renegade general and Islamist fighters. Explosions
were so loud they could be heard in the city centre.
Home to the headquarters of several oil firms, Benghazi is
located some 130 km from Zueitina, one of the four reopened
A tanker has docked at Es Sider and begun loading 600,000
barrels of oil, said Mohamed El Harari, spokesman for state-run
National Oil Corp (NOC). Ship tracking data on Reuters showed
the Aframax tanker Maria Bottiglieri anchored at Es Sider.
Technical problems and mistrust between the rebels and the
government had delayed implementing an oil port deal but output
has risen to 562,000 barrels per day (bpd), NOC said on Tuesday.
This is well above lows of barely 100,000 bpd seen earlier this
year, but still well short of levels of about 1.4 million bpd a
Traders and shipping sources expect several more cargoes to
be shipped by companies with stakes in the Waha Oil Co, which
runs the Es Sider port and connected oilfields, such as Marathon
Oil Corp, Hess Corp and ConocoPhillips.
Austria's OMV AG is also expected to lift a cargo.
The North African country badly needs higher exports to
cover budget needs as oil is the only source of income.
The Es Sider port currently holds some 4.5 million barrels
in storage, but once the tanks are emptied, the connected
oilfields can restart production, officials said.
"The returning oil supply from Libya is flooding a market
that is already amply supplied," said Commerzbank analyst
NEW OIL MINISTER
Clashes in Tripoli and Benghazi have mostly occurred away
from oilfields and ports, which in the past have often been the
target of takeovers by armed factions pressing political or
economic demands on the country's fragile government.
Apart from fighting another constant feature in post-Gaddafi
Libya is frequent changes of senior government positions,
reflecting political infighting and fast-changing alliances.
Acting Oil Minister Omar Shakmak said on Wednesday that he
would resign following a written request by Prime Minister
"I will abide by the decision because it is not a matter of
job but it is Libya. We can serve Libya in different jobs," he
told Reuters by phone. He did not say why he would be replaced.
NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanallah will take over Shakmak's job
as deputy minister while remaining at the helm of the oil firm,
Harari said. Since there has been no oil minister for months
Sanallah will effectively become acting oil minister.
(Additional reporting and writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by