Bulgarian, Libyan PMs Intervene to End Oil Tanker Row
The prime ministers of Bulgaria and Libya have said they are working for a “positive outcome” to a dispute over the alleged illegal seizure and sale in Bulgaria of a Libyan oil tanker, reported AFP.
In a phone call late Tuesday Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov and his Libyan counterpart Fayez al-Sarraj discussed the case of the 61,000-ton tanker “Badr”, which was detained in Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Burgas in November 2017.
“The Libyan premier thanked Boyko Borisov and the Bulgarian government for their timely intervention and the demonstrable desire for the case to end with a positive outcome for both sides,” Borisov’s press service said in a statement.
Sarraj added that “a favourable development in the case will give a very strong signal for future cooperation between Bulgaria and Libya”, the statement said.
The vessel, owned by the state-run Libyan General National Maritime Transport Company, was held by the Bulgarian company Bulgargeomin, which claimed it as collateral for a $9.2-million (7.9 million-euro) Libyan state company debt dating back to 1989.
The regional court in Burgas refused to honour Bulgargeomin’s claims or to allow the sale of the “Badr” vessel.
Despite this, and higher court judgments to release the vessel, it remained moored in the port of Burgas for over a year.
The case drew an angry response from Tripoli when in late December 2018 the ship’s Libyan captain and Indian crew were forced off the vessel after a private debt collection agent disregarded all court orders, seized the tanker and sold it to the same company that sought it as compensation.
The tanker then left Bulgarian territorial waters with a new crew, the name “Bdin”, and under a Panamanian flag.
In retaliation, Libya’s maritime authorities ordered the seizure of all Bulgarian ships entering its ports.
The threat prompted Bulgarian prosecutors to open an investigation.
The Bulgarian maritime administration, which had initially seized and held the tanker, also ordered it to return to Burgas on Tuesday after failed attempts by the vessel to enter Turkish and Ukrainian ports.
Bulgargeomin meanwhile said it had brought the ship back, adding that “the politicisation of the issue creates additional complications for both sides.”
According to the Bulgarian shipping industry website maritime.bg, a procedure to withdraw the vessel’s Panamanian flag is underway.