Oil tanker leaves Libyan rebel held port: sources

By Jonathan Saul and Humeyra Pamuk

LONDON/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A tanker sailed from an east Libyan port on Wednesday, believed to be carrying the first oil shipment from rebel-held territory, shipping sources said, but the potential buyer’s identity remained unknown.

AIS live ship tracking data on Reuters showed the Liberian-registered tanker Equator, which can carry up to one million barrels of oil, was moving into the Mediterranean Sea away from the eastern port of Tobruk with its destination registered as Singapore.

“The vessel loaded, the intended destination is Singapore,” a shipping source said. “It will probably end up in China.”

The expected shipment will be the first in weeks since an uprising against Muammar Gaddafi halted exports, although it was unclear who had hired the vessel. Other trade and shipping sources said the cargo could be destined for China.

“The destination is believed to be the Far East,” another shipping source said.

The tanker had arrived at Marsa el Hariga port, which is close to Tobruk, on Tuesday.

“The vessel now appears to be laden with cargo,” another shipping source said, referring to the depth of a vessel in the water which gives an indication of whether it is loaded.

An official with the vessel’s Greek operators, Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd, said it could not confirm or deny any details.

Trade sources said the buyer would likely keep a low profile given sanctions were still in place against Libya.

The rebel-led government said it had concluded a deal with Qatar to market crude oil and had discussed plans with a U.N. envoy to exempt its oil exports from sanctions that have been imposed on Gaddafi entities.

Rebels have asked the U.N. to help them restart oil and gas exports from ports they control and said it required “urgent attention” to enable Libya’s economy to function effectively.

Before the unrest, Libya was producing around 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil and exporting some 1.3 million bpd. Since its exports halted, Brent crude futures have risen to around $120 a barrel from around $100 before.

(Writing by Jonathan Saul, additional reporting by Zaida Espana and Jessica Donati in London, Renee Maltezou in Athens and Isabel Coles in Cairo; editing by Keiron Henderson)

Oil tanker leaves Libyan rebel held port: sources