A North Korean-flagged tanker, carrying an "illegal" cargo of oil from a rebel-held terminal in eastern Libya, escaped the warships that were shadowing it yesterday, members of Tripoli's parliament said.
"The oil tanker took advantage of poor weather conditions to head for the open sea. The ships that were surrounding it were not in a position to follow it," said a member of the General National Congress, the country's highest political authority.
Abdelkader Houili, a member of the parliament's energy committee, told al-Nabaa television that Libyan government ships had been forced to sail close to the coast because of the weather.
"The tanker then took advantage of the gap to head for the open sea," he said.
A second member of the parliament confirmed the vessel's escape. The official Lana news agency quoted a third lawmaker as saying the vessel, the Morning Glory, had slipped away. A government source and a spokesman for Libya's state-owned National Oil Corporation were not immediately able to confirm the vessel's escape.
Libyan authorities said on Monday that they had stopped the tanker as it tried to leave the al-Sidra terminal, but a spokesman for former rebel fighters blockading the port insisted the ship was still under their control in the harbour.
Former rebels calling for autonomy for the eastern Cyrenaica region have been blockading al-Sidra and other eastern oil export terminals since July.
Several ships have tried to dock at the rebel-held ports to take on oil. The Morning Glory, which docked on Saturday, was the first to do so.
The stand-off at the ports has slashed Libyan oil exports from 1.5 million barrels a day to just 250,000.
The conflict over oil wealth is increasing fears that the Opec member country may slide deeper into chaos.