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Mysterious North Korean tanker lingers on Libyan coast

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For the past three days a North Korean vessel has hovered ominously near a militant-held oil port on the eastern coast of Libya.

The Es-Sider Oil Port is one of three ports, alongside Ras Lanuf and Zueitina, located on the eastern coast seized by the forces of former militia leader, Ibrahim Jathran.

The group established control last year in a wave of protests at ports and oil fields across the country, resulting in a reduction to 200,000 barrels of oil per day (opd) compared to the 1.4 million last July.

The group is one of many that formed after the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, who maintained military power in an attempt to stake claims of independence across the country.

Since then, the protestors have threatened to sell oil independently unless they are granted political autonomy from Tripoli, and receive a greater share of oil revenues.

State -owned National Oil Corp (NOC) has since declared a force majeure at the port, warning all tankers to stay away from the militant controlled ports.

All the more confusing then, when the North Korean flagged Morning Glory appeared in waters near the dock this Tuesday, arriving via the Suez Canal.

Control room workers who remain loyal to the NOC have refused docking privileges at the port as the vessel lacks a contract with the state owned company, and so far it seems the vessel has made no attempts to load oil.

Nevertheless, it is very unusual to find North Korean ships straying in to Mediterranean waters, which has many officials asking – what’s the story Morning Glory?

According to a Reuter’s source, it is unknown whether the militia have tried to attract buyers with the tanker, but they know “they have been trying to sell oil.”

Earlier in January, a Malta-flagged ship was forcefully prevented from entering the same port by Libyan-armed forces.

The three ports were previously known to export up to 600,000 bpd.

It is believed that Ibrahim Jathran has teamed up with a separate group of protesters at the Port of Hariga, Torbruk, also located in the east, which handles around 110,000 bpd.

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