Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gasoline prices hit $30 at Tripoli

Sanctions, fuel shortages and Nato attacks have taken their toll. Qadhafi’s departure is imminent.

WESTERN governments believe Muammar Qadhafi’s fall is imminent, as new sanctions against regime-controlled ports bring panic to Tripoli and rumours emerge of more high-level defections.
On 13 June, the regime urgently summoned Algeria’s ambassador to Tripoli, amid claims that Qadhafi could seek asylum in that country. Algeria’s foreign minister, Mourad Medelci, on 12 June denied his government had offered to help Qadhafi leave Libya, but a senior source in the country told Petroleum Economist this could still happen.

The colonel’s son, Saadi Qadhafi, is also thought to be seeking an exit from Libya. The source said Saadi, a businessman who has influenced his father’s military strategy during the war, had instructed his associates to arrange his departure.

Final days

Briefings from a senior western diplomatic source with close knowledge of the effort to oust Qadhafi claims his regime is in its final days. “We expect him to go imminently,” he said.

While heavier and more precise aerial bombardment – some apparently targeting Qadhafi and his inner circle – has increased the pressure on the regime, a shift in tack from the Transitional National Council (TNC) and increasingly successful efforts to staunch the supply of fuel to western Libya could also now prove decisive, said the diplomatic source.

The TNC, according to the source, has grown more willing to negotiate a settlement with regime figures – a tactic designed to isolate Qadhafi still further. He is now thought to be changing locations every few hours.

But Qadhafi and his sons will have no future in Libya and the TNC will not negotiate with any members of the family, said the source. “They’re all out,” he said.

Meanwhile, gasoline shortages in western Libya are growing severe as a strategy to prevent fuel supplies to the regime begins to bite. A litre of gasoline now sells for LD10 ($8.12) in Tripoli which means $30 per gallon of gasoline. Lines at filling stations are “now being measured in miles, not km”, said a source. Thieves now siphon fuel from any cars not secured inside garages.

Staunch the flow of fuel

Although some trucks of fuel continue to cross the Tunisian border into Libya, rebels sources say they have staunched the flow. And since Nato interdicted the Jupiter tanker on 18 May, no other ships carrying fuel are thought to have reached a western Libyan port.

This has caused panic in Tripoli, said a source. Several desperate attempts have been made to commandeer another tanker, the Cartagena, which has been anchored offshore Malta for the past two weeks.

It was destined for a regime port, but following interdiction of the Jupiter, the Cartagena’s Indian crew has refused to sail to the country without written approval from Nato.

The Cartagena, holding 37,500 tonnes of 95 octane gasoline, belongs to General National Maritime Transport (GNMTC), the state-owned shipping firm under control of Qadhafi’s son Hannibal. According to sources, the regime has assembled a Libyan crew, which would commandeer the ship from its Indian crew and sail it to Tripoli.

Desperation to secure the Cartagena’s cargo follows a tightening of sanctions against Libya. The EU has now listed six ports – all under regime control – in which tankers may not dock or discharge fuel. If any does, it would be banned from EU ports. Benghazi and Tobruk, under TNC control, are not included.

Those measures are designed to end the flow of fuel to the regime, but also prevent crude oil liftings. GNMTC has been offering a cargo of 600,000-800,000 barrels from Ras Lanuf to any trader willing to buy it.

The regime has just 3.6 million to 4 million barrels of crude left in storage, following the near-total shut down of production. Derek Brower, London

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