Libya seizes oil tankers and crew after shootout at sea

The Ruta oil tanker flying the Ukranian flag, is seen at the Tripoli seaport on April 29, 2017, after it was seized by the Libyan Navy off the coastal city of Zuwara, about 160 km west of Tripoli, along with another tanker flying the Congolese flag, for smuggling fuel. (AFP)
Updated 30 April 2017
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Libya seizes oil tankers and crew after shootout at sea

LIBYA: Libya has seized two foreign-flagged oil tankers and detained their crews for allegedly smuggling fuel after an hours-long gunbattle off the west coast, authorities said.
Oil is Libya’s main natural resource, with reserves estimated at 48 billion barrels, the largest in Africa.
Libya had an output capacity of about 1.6 million barrels per day before the 2011 armed uprising, but production has since slumped as rival forces battle for control of its oil facilities.
The coast guard spotted the vessels on Thursday night two kilometers (1.2 miles) off Sidi Said near Zuwara, a town on the central coast, the authorities said.
“The Libyan coast guard boarded the two tankers, one flying the Ukrainian flag, the Ruta, and the other, the Stark, flying the Congolese flag,” said General Ayoub Qassem.
“The coast guards had monitored them from afar and waited until Friday morning to act,” he told AFP.
Qassem said the oil traffickers were heavily armed and were supported by small boats.
They had put up fierce resistance, but the tankers were eventually seized by the Libyan authorities, “after more than three hours of exchange of fire.”
On several occasions, “boats with armed men were returned... and opened fire on the coast guards” using Kalashnikovs and heavy machine guns, he said.
After they were overpowered, the two tankers and their crews were taken back to the capital Tripoli.
Among them were 14 Ukrainians from the Ruta and four Turks and two Georgians who were on the Stark, said Qassem.
Another three crew members from the Stark were in Zuwara, he said, without giving their nationality.
At the time of the seizure, the Ruta had around 3,330 tons of oil in its tanks, while the Stark, which can carry 1,236 tons, was about to be loaded with fuel when the coast guard arrived.
The crews of the two vessels were taken to Tripoli where they are to face prosecution.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, with dozens of armed factions battling for control of the oil-rich country.


IMF says Egypt’s structural reforms key for sustainable development

Updated 51 min 21 sec ago
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IMF says Egypt’s structural reforms key for sustainable development

  • Egypt has implemented tough reforms under a $12 billion loan program agreed in late 2016
  • Egypt’s inflation eased to its lowest level in almost two years in May
CAIRO: IMF managing director Christine Lagarde has praised Egypt’s economy saying it was showing “strong signs of recovery” under a three-year reform plan, and stressed the importance of structural reforms to achieve more sustainable development.
Egypt has implemented tough reforms under a $12 billion loan program agreed in late 2016 that involved deep cuts to energy subsidies, new taxes, and a floated currency in a bid to draw back investors who fled after its 2011 uprising.
Financial markets have been closely watching how the government keeps to the terms of the deal, which has helped Cairo receive loan installments on schedule.
In a statement after she met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in New York on Sunday, Lagarde said the IMF remained committed to supporting Egypt.
“Egypt’s economy is showing strong signs of recovery, and its economic growth is among the highest in the Middle East,” Lagarde said in the September 23 statement.
She said she agreed with El-Sisi on the importance of capitalizing on Egypt’s “macroeconomic gains to advance the authorities’ home-grown structural reforms.”
“These reforms will help achieve more sustainable, inclusive and private-sector led growth which will help create jobs for Egypt’s young population, while also ensuring adequate resources are available for social protection,” she added, according to the statement.
Egypt’s inflation, which had soared to a record high of more than 33 percent in July 2017 after the import-dependent country floated the Egyptian pound in November 2016, eased to its lowest level in almost two years in May.
Core inflation in August stood at 8.83 percent while foreign reserves reached $44.419 billion compared with $36.143 billion in the same month last year.
Egypt in June raised fuel and electricity prices as part of the reforms agreed under the IMF plan in measures that had made it harder for ordinary Egyptians to make ends meet. Another fuel price rise is scheduled next year.