February 8, 2015 / 1:51 PM / 4 years ago

Strike closes Hariga oil port, Libya's last onshore export terminal

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - A strike by security guards has closed Libya’s eastern oil port of Hariga, the country’s last functioning export port apart from two offshore fields, a port official said on Sunday.

The closure will lower oil output to less than 300,000 barrels a day, a fraction of the 1.6 million Libya used to pump before the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

Libya is in the middle of a struggle between two governments and parliaments allied to armed factions fighting for legitimacy and territory.

The internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni fled to the east when a faction called Libya Dawn seized Tripoli in August, reinstating the old parliament and setting up a rival administration.

Hariga in Tobruk, an eastern city near the Egyptian border, used to export around 120,000 barrels a day.

Only Brega port is still open but it is used to supply the 120,000 bpd-Zawiya refinery with crude. All other ports and most oilfields have shut down due to fighting nearby or pipeline blockages by rival factions.

The guards at Hariga complained their salaries had not been paid, preventing Greek-registered Minerva Zoe from loading 725,000 barrels of oil, the official said. The port closed on Saturday morning.

The fall of oil exports to a trickle has caused a budget crisis, delaying salary payments and halting development projects and hampering the supply of drugs to hospitals.

In another sign of failing state services, several districts in the capital Tripoli saw outages for 10 hours on Sunday, residents said. Power had already gone off for six hours on Saturday.

A spokesman for the state power firm declined to comment but officials have previously blamed gas shortages.

The Tripoli government has also blamed air strikes by the official government on the western town of Zuwara, forcing the nearby the Mellitah gas and oil complex to lower output for security reasons.

Hariga has closed several times due to strikes over payment demands from security guards which have been resolved within a week or two.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli Ulf Laessing and Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by William Hardy and Stephen Powell

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