|Clarification: An earlier
version of this article, published on 28 June, said
Alubaf International Bank, of Tunis, was a subsidiary of
Alubaf Arab International Bank, of Bahrain. Since
publication, Alubaf Arab International Bank of Bahrain
has pointed out to us that it is not connected with
Alubaf International Bank, of Tunis, and that it disposed
of its subsidiary in Tunisia in 2003.
ALUBAF International Bank Tunis is providing a letter of credit
to traders willing to break an embargo on supplies of fuel to
parts of Libya still under Muammar Qadhafis control.
In a document passed to Petroleum Economist by rebel
sources, Alabuf Tunis offers a standby letter of
credit for the supply of 20,000 tonnes of gasoline to
Zawiyah, a port in western Libya.
The letter of credit is addressed to Raseel Import and
Export, a Jordanian firm, guaranteeing payment from a company
called SMS Trading, of Tunis, which is understood to be the
recipient of the fuel.
A source said Alubaf Tunis's efforts to oversee new
fuel shipments followed visits to Tunisia by Omran Abukraa, recently appointed chairman
of state-owned Libyan National Oil Company, and Abdulati
Obeidi, Libyas foreign minister.
A source said SMS Trading was likely operating in
co-ordination with Al Sharara, a Libyan company set up by
former oil minister Shokri Ghanem that, since the uprising
against Qadhafi, has been transformed from a local distribution
company into a fuel importer.
The amount of money involved was not disclosed, nor the date
of shipment. The letter of credit was issued on 17 June.
Neither Raseel Import and Export nor Alubaf Tunis would
respond to requests for comment about this article. SMS Trading
could not be located.
A source told Petroleum Economist that the companies would
try to land a vessel carrying the fuel in Zawiyah but if
Nato, which has already interdicted regime-bound tankers carrying
gasoline, prevented the landing it would discharge its fuel in
Tunisia for re-export to Qadhafi-controlled Libya.
Desperate for fuel
The document confirms Qadhafis desperation to secure
fuel shipments as a tightening of the embargo against his
regime drains it of gasoline and diesel to support his
armys war effort.
Nato previously prevented one tanker, the Jupiter, from landing in
western Libya after Petroleum Economist revealed it was
carrying 12,500 tonnes of fuel to the regime. It remains
anchored off Tripoli, and has not been able to discharge its
The EU has also widened its sanctions against the regime to
bar vessels from entering six ports under Qadhafis
A second, larger vessel, the Cartagena, remains anchored
offshore Malta. It is carrying 37,500 tonnes of gasoline. In
recent weeks, Hannibal Qadhafi, the dictators son who
controls the state-owned General National Maritime Transport,
ordered a crew of Libyan sailors to take over the Cartagena and
sail it to Tripoli.
That plan failed after the Indian crew refused to surrender
control of the Cartagena.
Floating refinery plans
Petroleum Economist has also learnt that the regime has
entered negotiations with a vendor in the Black Sea region to
buy a floating refinery. The plant, which could process some
crude oil still said to be held in regime-controlled storage
tanks, would have maximum capacity of 10,000 barrels a day
(b/d), said a source.
The letter of credit from Alubaf would circumvent a problem
that has hindered trading with the regime since conflict
erupted in February, when the closure of banks prevented credit
lines from being issued, leaving traders unsure about
Even in the rebel-held east, payments for fuel shipments
have gone through Qatar Petroleum and its subsidiaries, which
have agreed to handle the rebels petroleum trade.
Zawiyah, which is also home to a 120,000 b/d refinery, has
seen fighting in recent weeks as rebels seeking an end to the
Qadhafi regime clash with loyalists. The refinery is a source
of fuel for Tripoli and the regimes army.
Last week, it was confirmed that rebels had successfully
shut down a pipeline shipping crude from fields in Libyas
southwest to Zawiyah, essentially cutting off the
It is understood that a valve on the line was switched off
and cemented to prevent easy restart.
Western diplomats insist that the fuel embargo and a more
intensive military campaign could quickly bring Qadhafi
Renewed efforts are also under way to secure a negotiated
settlement, although the latest indictment against Qadhafi from
the International Criminal Court, issued on 27 June, may have
made that harder.
One source said: Hes been offered jungle, beach,
mountain top, chalet, villa whatever he wants to
leave. Derek Brower, London