| ZUEITINA, Libya
ZUEITINA, Libya Jan 15 Libya's Zueitina oil
terminal should reopen in coming days, officials said, after the
oil ministry gave the go-ahead to start planning the resumption
of activities following the latest disruption to the OPEC
member's economic lifeline.
At the facility which lies some 800 kms east of the capital
Tripoli, protesters who had forced the shutdown of operations
last month were no longer there as negotiations over their
social demands continue.
"The port is closed, within a few days the situation will
get better and work will resume," Abduladeem Shareed, security
supervisor at the Zueitina terminal, said on Tuesday.
Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak echoed this. "We gave the
management the go-ahead to plan restarting the operation as soon
as possible in consideration of all the security and safety
requirements mainly for people and equipment," he told Reuters
"I think they are making good progress in this sense."
No oil has been shipped out of Zueitina, which exports
around 60,000-70,000 barrels per day, since the start of January
due to protests that began in December. A crude shipment left
the terminal around end-December.
Protesters' threats have affected mainly the shipping of oil
rather than gas, because there had been a safe shutdown of the
oilfields pumping to the terminal.
Once pumping resumes, it would take 10 to 14 working days
for the first shipment to leave the terminal, Shakmak said.
"The (production) operation could start anytime within this
weekend. Next week, we're going to visit the terminal concerning
the restart of activities," he said.
Oil installations have become a focal point of protests in
Libya in the wake of July polls that ushered in the North
African country's first elected authorities.
The administration is still struggling to impose order on a
vast and divided country awash with arms and militias after the
overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in late 2011.
In December, protesters calling for jobs and other social
demands forced their way into Zueitina port's management offices
and ordered the port director to shut down operations.
The chairman of Zueitina Oil Company, which works alongside
U.S. firm Occidental Petroleum Corp, later said they
were persuaded to leave by local officials but did not have
details on whether an actual agreement was reached.
Workers have since been mainly carrying out maintenance.
"They stood outside and forced this closure. People want
more security to be able to do their jobs," one Zueitina
employee said, adding the protesters had numbered around 100.
Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi said last week his ministry
had reached agreement with the army chief, defence and interior
ministries to secure exporting terminals, in light of the spate
of protests that have caused disruption to Libya's key industry
after it returned close to pre-war output levels of 1.6 mln bpd.
"We need support to enhance security inside the complex,"
Shareed at Zueitina said. "If this keeps happening, the country
will lose money."
At Zueitina, a few cars belonging to a force affiliated to
the defence ministry guarded the eastern entrance to the
terminal - where the protesters had first come - but no
additional security forces have been despatched, security
"We are neutral. They (the protesters) have problems with
the company, we try to secure it and mediate," said Jibril
Al-Omani, in charge of the security force at Zueitina, part of a
wider Defence Ministry force for strategic sites and borders.
Senior oil officials said talks with the protesters were
still going on. In the small town of Zueitina, some said they
were giving the government until the end of the month for their
demands to be met, highlighting the fragility of the situation.
"If they don't, we will close it again," one said.
(Additional reporting by Ghaith Shennib; editing by James