Libya seizes tankers in anti-oil smuggling operation

Libya seizes tankers in anti-oil smuggling operation
Two tankers and their foreign crew were seized by Libyan coastguards this week after allegedly attempting to smuggle oil out of the war-torn country.
2 min read
30 April, 2017
The tanker was caught allegedly smuggling oil out of Libya [AFP]
Two foreign-flagged tankers allegedly smuggling oil were seized by Libyan authorities this week, following a dramatic hours long gun battle with coastguards.

The Libyan government said the crew of the two ships were arrested by the coastguard after the gun fight with the alleged oil smugglers.

"The Libyan coastguard boarded the two tankers, one flying the Ukrainian flag, the Ruta, and the other, the Stark, flying the Congolese flag," said General Ayoub Qassem told AFP.

"The coastguards had monitored them from afar and waited until Friday morning to act."

The operation took place on Thursday off Sidi Said near Zuwara, a town on the central coast.

Qassem said the oil traffickers were heavily armed and were supported by small boats engaging in a three hour firefight with the coastguards.

The two tankers were overpowered with the crew taken back to the capital Tripoli, which included Ukrainians, Turks, Georgians and another three sailors whose nationalities were not revealed.

The Ruta was carrying around 3,330 tonnes of oil in its tanks, while the Stark had 1,236 tonnes and was about to be loaded with fuel when the coastguard arrived.

The crews of the two vessels were taken to Tripoli where they are to face prosecution.

Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa and produced around 1.6 million barrels per day before the 2011 revolution.

Agencies contributed to this story.