Government appoints new chairman for National Oil Corporation in a largely symbolic move

Libya Channel with Reuters

Libya’s internationally recognized government has appointed Naji al-Maghrabi as chairman of its state oil firm in the east of the country, an oil official said on Saturday. Reports of a reshuffle had already been circulating last week.

The move is largely symbolic as oil production and marketing are still controlled by the National Oil Corporation in Tripoli, where Libya Dawn seized power last summer and set up a rival government.

At the close of last year, the official government declared that the original NOC was no longer independent due to its location within Libya Dawn-controlled territory and opened a separate NOC in Tobruk under the chairmanship of Al-Mabruk Buseif Mrajaa. But NOC officials in Tripoli maintain they were not linked to either government, and oil customers have continued to deal with them.

Maghrabi, who is currently in Egypt, will replace Buseif as chairman, an oil official said, without giving a reason.

The new oil firm has struggled to impose itself, opening bank accounts in the UAE to redirect financial flows and contacting prospective buyers abroad. But so far legal concerns over ownership of the oil, given the duel governments, have prevented any deal from happening. Threats by the government to take legal action against anyone dealing with the Tripoli authority have also remained without consequences.

Meanwhile, the tug of war has taken its toll on Libya’s oil exports, already hampered by the lack of security and oil sector strikes. Current production is estimated at only around 350,000 barrels per day, less than a quarter of the pre-revolution level of 1.6 million bbl/d on average.

In particular, the rival governments have been fighting over the ports of Sidra and Ras Lanuf – key export points for the oil rich Sirte Basin – at first militarily, then politically. Both facilities have been closed almost continuously since August 2013. Last month, the NOC’s Tripoli management tried to resume oil exports from Ras Lanuf, but the ports are controlled by forces allied with the official government, which threatened to use force in the event of an attempted oil lifting.

The UN has described the NOC as neutral institution, like the Central Bank, and warned the Libyan conflict parties not to interfere with its functioning.

In this article