Key Libya Oil Port Exports First Shipment in a Year

By Dow Jones Business News, 

An oil tanker carrying 670,000 barrels of crude has left Libya's port of Ras Lanuf, the first shipment since it was closed by rebels a year ago, despite warnings this week from the International Energy Agency that the North African country is struggling to find buyers for its oil.

The Gemini Sun Aframax tanker, owned by Zodiac Maritime and charted by Austria's OMV, left Ras Lanuf, Libya's third biggest port, on Tuesday evening and was sailing toward Italy on Wednesday, a spokesman for state-run National Oil Corp., or NOC, said.

A second shipment is expected in the coming days, he said.

Ras Lanuf, which has the capacity to load 220,000 barrels a day, was occupied by armed rebels in August last year, and was only handed back to NOC last month.

The oil shipment is a boost to the country's beleaguered central government, which is struggling to contain clashes between rival militant groups around the capital Tripoli and in the east.

However the IEA, which advises industrialized nations on oil policies, said Tuesday that incremental Libyan barrels are having a hard time finding buyers.

"Many in the market seem more focused today on potential short-term downward price pressures from a further increase in Libyan production," it said.

Libya, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the holder of Africa's largest crude reserves, used to produce almost 1.6 million barrels of oil a day before the downfall of former leader Moammar Gadhafi. The country currently pumps around 450,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

Write to Summer Said at

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