Country Insight: Libya

Port news


Libya's ancient history dates back to the era of the Alexander the Great and the Punic wars between Rome and Carthage, and even further back in time. Following the end of World War 2, it was first under allied occupation, having been part of the Ottoman Empire at the start of the 20th century, and after conflict ending up as a colonial possession of Italy. Subsequently Libya became an independent kingdom, but this ended with a coup against the king in 1969 led by Muammar Gaddafi who would then rule the nation until 2011 when he was captured by rebel forces and killed. During his time in office Libya significantly developed its oil industry, but was also involved in foreign conflicts and further he allegedly supported armed groups abroad which led to, amongst other things, armed confrontation with the United States as well as UN sanctions.

Prior to the 2011 revolution, Libya was a key oil export nation, with the oil sector amounting to over 2/3 of GDP and Libya being a comparatively wealthy nation amongst others in the region. The next most significant resource is natural gas, but the nation is heavily dependent on food imports, in particular cereals and other basic food items. Following an apparent thaw in international relations in 2003, it appeared the Libya was starting a new chapter in its history, but that era ended with the 2011 revolution.

The present state of affairs in Libya is unfortunately very dangerous and very confusing. While the revolution removed Gaddafi's regime from power, it was not possible for a unified national government to successfully replace him. Various armed groups began competing for power and oil wealth, leading to a fracturing of the country internally with conflict affecting many parts of the nation. At present there are two competing governments, one in Tripoli and one in Tobruk (the latter enjoying international recognition).

While Libya remains an important source of oil and gas, the security environment is very serious, and there have been repeat instances where vessels ended up being targeted by violent force, including an air strike that killed two crewmen on a tanker vessel.

The present instability has also seen Libya becoming a key transit point for migrants and refugees seeking to cross the Mediterranean, and hoping to reach Europe.

Given the fluid nature of the situation, the Association has published a number of articles and advisories.

For further information, members are asked to contact the Association.