On 20th November 2019, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) held an open meeting at the London Park Lane Hilton hotel to discuss current oil trading conditions in Libya. The meeting was marketed as an opportunity for the NOC to ‘clarify and reassure’ stakeholders of the ‘actual security assessment of all Libyan Ports and the Libyan market’. The meeting, which was led by NOC Manager of Marine Transport, Mustafa El Buaishi, and Musab Arebi, of the NOC Crude Oil and Marketing Dept, stated that Libyan exports currently stand at 1.15 million bpd, from a current production level of 1.3 million bpd. Curiously, the oft repeated claim by the head of the NOC, Mustafah Sanallah, that the NOC could reach a production level of 2 million bpd was not mentioned; this perhaps represents a low-level climbdown by the NOC, as it adopts a more realistic projection of future output levels.
NOC representatives also discussed the current security situation within Libya, asserting that the core area of conflict continues to be within South Tripoli, which has been the focus of fighting between Government of National Accord (GNA) and Libyan National Army (LNA) forces. A key takeaway from the meeting, which the NOC were keen to stress, was that despite the ongoing fighting surrounding Tripoli, Libya as a whole remains stable, and in particular Libyan ports remain secure (including Tripoli’s port). While Dryad broadly agrees with these assessments, we would remind commercial operators that any such assessment of risk must be weighed alongside an evidence-based appraisal of risk variables present in any location. To illustrate, while the threat level in Tripoli is High, and there is undoubtedly a high volume of kinetic activity, it is presently unlikely that vessels or personnel in the port area will be impacted by the ongoing conflict. The NOC is currently asserting that “all Libyan ports are currently safe”, and it aims for all Libyan ports to be ISPS compliant by February 2020. Despite the relative stability of trading conditions, the feasibility of this later statement remains questionable. This assessment is made on the basis of the multiple and competing issues currency facing NOC, which include attempts to increase output levels, ongoing security issues and potentially disruptive industrial action.