* Two affected ports account for 40% of nation’s oil shipments
* Country has struggled to stabilize exports amid war, unrest
By Salma El Wardany
Two of Libya’s biggest oil ports stopped loading crude after armed forces clashed nearby, taking more barrels off the market just as OPEC mulls proposals to boost production.
Workers were removed from the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf terminals, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak to the media. The evacuation of the ports, which account for 40 percent of Libya’s oil exports, comes as fellow members of OPEC prepare for a key summit next week in Vienna.
Fighting erupted about 20 kilometers (13 miles) south of Es Sider, said Omran al-Hamali, a spokesman for Brigade 302, which is partly responsible for security at the oil facilities. Libya has pumped 990,000 barrels a day over the past three months, well below the 1.8 million it produced before the ouster of former leader Moammar Qaddafi.
Saudi Arabia, the largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and partner Russia have proposed boosting output to temper prices that topped $80 a barrel in May. OPEC members Iran and Venezuela, which have little capacity to raise supply themselves, oppose the plan.
Tanker Minerva Lisa, set to load crude from Es Sider, was instructed to move 10 miles away from the port into deeper water, one person said. Bloomberg tanker tracking shows the vessel headed away from the immediate vicinity of the terminal in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Es Sider was set to export 15 crude cargoes, or a total of 9 million barrels, this month, while Ras Lanuf was due to ship five cargoes totaling 2.8 million barrels, according to a loading program obtained by Bloomberg.
The Libyan National Army, led by Eastern Military Commander Khalifa Haftar, took control of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf along with other oil facilities in 2016, allowing them to reopen after a long blockade by rival militias. Storage tanks at the terminals were badly damaged in previous fighting.
(Updates with tankers information in fifth and sixth paragraphs.)
–With assistance from Julian Lee.
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