Libyan navy opens fire on tanker to stop ship 'smuggling oil'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 January, 2014, 11:37pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 4:27am

The owner of the oil tanker driven away from a protestor-controlled port by the Libyan navy denied it was involved in trying to smuggle crude oil out of the country.

Istanbul-based shipping firm Palmali said it had ordered the ship's charterer to remain in international waters after it learned it was trying to sail to the Libyan port of Es Sider.

Libyan officials have said the navy fired warning shots near the Maltese-flagged tanker, Baku, on Sunday, saying it tried to breach its blockade of eastern ports.

The Libyan government has vowed to prevent protestors from shipping oil to world markets independently of Tripoli, declaring such exports illegal. Strikes and protests at Libyan oil ports have been running for the last six months, reducing government income to a trickle, and stoking a potential budget crisis.

Palmali said the Libyan authorities had shown "total disrespect" for the rule of international order, and that the navy had tried to corral its tanker towards a government-controlled port.

"We asked them to change course toward Misrata, but then we had to open fire when they refused and started to pull away, zigzagging," navy spokesman Emad Ayoub said.

NOC said Libya had warned the owner of the vessel that approaching the port was illegal.