Libya considers adding chemical markers to curtail oil smuggling

Libya considers adding chemical markers to curtail oil smuggling
The smuggling of oil is estimated to cost the war-torn country $750 million per year.
2 min read
19 April, 2018
Libyans line up for oil amid shortages [Getty]

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) is mulling over adding chemicals to its oil to trace which products are smuggled abroad, the company's chairman said on Wednesday.

Mustafa Sanalla called on EU officials to seize smuggling ships in the Mediterranean. The chairman also called on the UN to sanction smugglers and for Libyan authorities to scrap subsidies that make oil sell for as little as $0.02 per litre.

"The fuel smugglers and thieves have permeated not only the militias which control much of Libya, but also the fuel distribution companies which are supposed to bring cheap fuel to Libyan citizens," Sanalla said.

"The huge sums of money available from smuggling have corrupted large parts of Libyan society," he added.

The chemical markers would in theory aid Europol, CEPOL and Interpol in identifying oil smugglers. 

Since Libya's 2011 uprising, smuggling has thrived. Up to 40 per cent of Libya's refined fuel is regularly stolen or smuggled, according to the NOC. Gasoline is typically smuggled via land whereas diesel is smuggled offshore. 

Smuggling is estimated to cost Libya in total $750 million dollars per year, according to Reuters. 

US sanctions and other measures against Libyan smugglers have "not been enough to create a major disincentive for the fuel smugglers," Sanalla also said on Wednesday.

In part because of subsidies, petrol shortages are common in Libya as smugglers obtain better black market prices abroad. Libyans are often forced to pay a higher than official rate for oil to secure access. 

"Fuel smugglers are well-armed, and well-resourced. And every day their grip on regions of Libya – and also on neighbouring countries who receive smuggled and stolen Libyan fuel – becomes stronger and more institutionalized," Sanalla added.

He called on the EU's operation to combat smuggling to be extended. Sanalla said that much of the illegal activity could be traced by radio or satellite. 

Libya's oil wealth, the largest in Africa, has been the focus of bitter disputes as rival militias and governments struggle for power.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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