NSA Security Update – Libya – 12 August 2014

The security situation in Libya is severe and has worsened over the last month. There have been large scale evacuations of foreign nationals and several embassies and UN offices have been shut down this summer.

Benghazi port was reportedly shut down, according to (sometimes conflicting) reports, after threats against vessels there. Port traffic is redirected to Tobruk. The newly elected Libyan parliament recently moved to Tobruk, and now demands a shakeup of Libya’s political system and a stronger say in presidential elections. There is a serious breakdown of security in Tripoli. After the toppling of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, a power vacuum emerged. The Tripoli government and its attempts at democratization have been undermined by militia infighting, corruption, regionalist aspirations, unemployment and a weak economy. Government troops, various militias and Islamist groups are fighting for power, in shifting alliances. Libya’s armed forces are split. A former army general, Khalifa Haftar, commands a powerful militia, which launched “Operation Dignity” this spring, claiming to fight Islamists but also competing for power with the Tripoli government. Haftar’s forces control parts of Libya’s air force, army, navy and air defences, with its main power base in the east. His forces have bombed Islamist positions but have also have threatened to attack Misrata city and the Benghazi port. Haftar has the support of large parts of the Libyan parliament, which has held it first session in Tobruk, on the Egyptian border. Large areas in the eastern part of the country are controlled by the sunni islamist militia group Ansar al-Sharia, who have declared Benghazi as an “Islamic emirate”. There is reportedly a certain exchange of fighters between Ansar al Sharia and ISIL / ISIS / IS in Syria/Iraq, according to ISS and TRAC reports. Briefly on ports and main cities (Note that the situation may change quickly) • In general: Note that ports services may be hampered by the general security and supply chain problems outside the ports, and by related manning and technical issues in ports, even if ports are open to traffic. • Misrata Port Misrata, the third largest city, lies just east of the capital city Tripoli. The Misrata militia is one of Libya’s strongest and operates in both Misrata and Tripoli. General Haftari has threatened to attack targets in Misrata with Scud missiles, and claims that arms are being smuggled from Misrata port to Benghazi. However the port does operate at the time of writing. • Tripoli port The port operates despite serious security and safety incidents as well as threats. A serious fire broke out in late July at the Tripoli fuel depot on the airport road. It is believed to have been cause by a missile or a downed warplane. The depot is the main source of fuel for Tripoli, believed to contain 6 million liters. A product tanker delivered large amounts of diesel fuel on 7 August, according to reports. On Saturday 9 August a fire broke out at the railway section of Tripoli port. The cause of the fire is not known. • Benghazi and eastern Libyan ports The port operated more or less normally until recently. BIMCO and various media now report that Benghazi port has been shut down and all ships are being diverted to Tobruk port. The situation in Benghazi is very tense and violence can break out at any time. Violence is often related to frictions between militias over arms smuggling from Misrata and other western locations to the eastern port of Benghazi. Foreign vessels or crew do not appear to be targeted specifically but misunderstandings could cause danger. On shore visits are highly dangerous. There have been several clashes between army units, militias operating alone or for the Tripoli government, and islamist rebel groups in and around the eastern port cities. Several diplomatic buildings have been attacked and Westerners killed or taken hostage. A Libyan “Special Forces” compound in the area was recently taken over by rebels. • Brega oil port The port has occasionally been shut due to protests and clashes but was set to reopen recently after an agreement between the government and the militia. Oil exports may resume but the situation can change quickly. • Tobruk port: Traffic to Benghazi port is now being diverted to Tobruk, a port with limited capacity, close to Egypt. The area is relatively secure, and largely under general Haftar’s control. If planning to visit Tobruk or Benghazi ports please act on updated information. Offshore activities, and people smuggling. Libya’s Bouri offshore field, close to the Tunisian border, is a major Mediterranean oil producing field. Production at the Al Jurf field close to Bouri was stopped by Total last week due to the worsening of the security situation onshore. The production at Bouri reportedly continues. Libya has become a major hub for human trafficking across the Mediterranean, since 2011. People smugglers reportedly “dump” refugees on merchant vessels in the area and on Italian navy ships patrolling near the Bouri field, and quickly return with their boats to shore to pick up more people. Other developments. Tripoli and Benghazi international airports have been shut down due to the ongoing fighting. The ferry company Virtu recently announced the launch of a commercial ferry line between Malta and Tripoli as of 12 August but this service has already been cancelled according to the UK FCO. Travel Advice We strongly discourage land travel in Libya. Crew change via airports and land routes should be avoided. Stay away from large gatherings of people. If land travel is necessary make sure to arrange proper security. You should not count on receiving consular assistance in Libya if you get in trouble. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against all travel to Libya, without exception, and is asking Norwegian citizens to leave the country. Link to updated travel advice The Foreign Commonwealth Office also advises against all travel to the country. Link UK, French and German nationals were evacuated by ship from Libya recently. These countries have asked their citizens to leave Libya. Most services at the British Embassy were shut down temporarily as of 5 August. Libya is a JWC listed area. Check with your insurance company for possible conditions.

Useful Contacts:

• Tripoli: Norwegian Consulate. Dar El Almad Complex, Tower 4, 10th Floor, Tripoli, Libya Telephone: (+218) 21 335 0344, Telefax: (+218) 21 335 0343

Benghazi, consulate: Lena Nilsson, consul for Norway and Sweden in Benghazi, email: benghazi.swecons@yahoo.com

• Cairo, Egypt: Norwegian embassy (also covering Libya) 8 El Gezirah Street, Zamalek, Cairo Phone: +2 02 27283900, Fax: +2 02 27283901, E-mail: emb.cairo@mfa.no

• UD / MFA operation centre (24/7), Oslo: +47 23951300 (Norwegian citizens and/ or NOR/NIS vessels)

• DNK / Warrisk emergency assistance, +47 22 42 88 44, plus separate reports on Libya

• Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, Crisis/incident management support +47 90095001