Category Archives: Containers

Libya: Tobruk call for Tunisian boycott after Tunis customs seize containers

A top Tobruk businessman is demanding a boycott of Tunisian goods after describing Tunisian customs as pirates for seizing containers from two Libya-bound vessels.

Ibrahim Al-Jarari chairman of the Tobruk Chamber of Commerce and Industry last month called for a ban on Tunisian ships entering Libya ports.  Now he is extending his demand to include Tunisian goods.

The problem appears to have begun when this February customs officers at the port of Sfax found some 25 million packets of cigarettes in 15 containers aboard the Panamanian-flagged Med Prodigy. Tunisia’s customs chief Adel bin Hassan was reported by local radio station Saraha FM to have hailed the customs’ seizure as the largest ever and said the cigarettes were worth $17 million.

The Med Prodigy’s captain is alleged to have told customs officials the cigarettes came from Turkey and had been ordered by a Libyan businessman for delivery to Misrata.  The vessel had sailed to Sfax from Valencia. According to, it is still in the port nine weeks later. Tunisian customs hasnot explained if the shipping manifest for the containers was incorrect.

However, Jarari insisted to Alwasat that the goods were not being smuggled, that the documents were not falsified and that the shipment was legal.

Less clear is a second incident this March. This time Tunisian sources claim customs men intercepted another Libya-bound container ship at sea and escorted it to Tunis’ Rades port. There they allegedly found five containers full of Chinese-made sneakers. It is not thought that this vessel, which has not been named, was detained after the containers had been offloaded. Nor has it been explained how a shipment of sneakers could be so illegal that a container ship would need to be intercepted on the high seas by a customs cutter

LH 16.04.2017



Libya: Tobruk Port Struggles with High Cargo Volumes

Tripoli, 4 July 2016:

Tobruk, the only fully-functioning eastern port is buckling under the sheer weight of cargo arriving on its docks its director has warned today.

Ghaith Thami has said that the port is running out of warehouse space as a wide range of cargos piles up awaiting truckers to take them away. The port’s difficulties are being made worse by unpaid salaries for dock workers. In order to get the goods they have ordered, Thami said that some businessmen were actually paying the dockers themselves.

With the exception of the non-unionised Khoms, no Libyan port has a particularly outstanding record in normal times. Tripoli has been notorious for the refusal of dock workers and truckers to handle more than one or two containers per shift.

Thami gave no figures for recent cargo ship movements into the port. He said however that  he had asked the town’s municipal council to provide extra storage space. The municipality was in turn pressing the Libyan Central Bank the provide the funds the pay salaries. He did not say if this was the Tripoli or Beida central bank.

It is also unclear what impact the port congestion is having on the local Customs department. But Thami warned that many of the goods stuck in warehouses had been ordered for Eid and entrepreneurs were desperate to have them delivered.

Benghazi and Derna ports remain too dangerous for ships to unload and truckers to carry offloaded cargo away.

LH 5.7.2016


Libya: Khoms Port police seize money laundering containers

Khoms police reported yesterday that it has stopped containers of goods purported to be part of a money-laundering operation. Its Counter Crime Unit stopped the seven containers after they had exited the city’s port.

The containers were supposed to contain foodstuffs according to declared documentation and hard currency letters of credit (LC).

The Counter Crime Unit did not give the exact value of the transaction but reported that the LC was opened in the ‘’millions of dollars’’. The case was seen as further possible evidence of the widespread money-laundering and ‘’exhaustion of assets of the country and abuse of public funds’’.

Upon inspection, the seven containers were found to contain a front row of relatively inexpensive boxes of tea and the rest of the containers were full of even more inexpensive boxes of water.

In March, Khoms police reported that it had also seized containers supposedly full of household goods, but again these only had a front row of household goods – with the rest of the containers full of the more lucrative fireworks.

It will be recalled that there have been a number of cases over the last year of money-laundering through the opening of hard currency LCs, only for the alleged criminals to import goods either at the fraction of the value of the LCs – or to even send empty containers to Libya.

There have been reported cases where the beneficiaries of the money-laundering LCs have all together abandoned their containers in Libyan ports.

The Central Bank of Libya and Audit Bureau have been conducting a campaign to counter this phenomenon. Critics have accused the CBL of acting too late.

LH 12.4.2016


Libya: CBL freezes 600 accounts for money laundering, refers them to Public Prosecutor


The Tripoli-based Central Bank of Libya (CBL) has frozen 600 bank accounts accused of money laundering offences and referred them to the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO).

The 600 frozen accounts represented 150 company bank accounts and 450 individual accounts.

The CBL said in its statement released today that within its role of fighting money laundering, it froze the concerned bank accounts, and thereafter it has referred the cases to the competent seizure authorities such as the Audit Bureau, the PPO and the Administrative Control Authority which are authorized by law with the power of investigation, seizure and arrest.

It will be recalled that in February this year the Attorney General/Public Prosecutors Office had issued a number of arrest warrants for financial corruption including for abandoned containers in Tripoli port that first came to light in August 2015.

In November 2015 it was reported that 110 containers of rice unfit for human consumption were unloaded at Tripoli port. Social media had shown photos of insect infected rice.

The insect-infected 110 containers were reported to be part of a larger deal totaling 400 containers for 10,000 metric tons of rice at an estimated value of LD 10.3 million.

There has been much public pressure on the CBL and Audit Bureau to fight perceived corruption in light of Libya’s deteriorating economic and financial situation caused by reduced oil production/exports, low international crude oil prices and the political and military divisions in the country.

This has resulted in cash shortages at banks, inflation and rising consumer prices, a fall in the exchange rate of the dinar, diminished state spending and the late payment of state-sector salaries.

LH 15.03.2016

Libya: Over 500 abandoned containers in Tobruk port, part of foreign currency corruption scam

There are more than 500 abandoned containers in Tobruk port, Tobruk Deputy Port Manager, Omar Jilghaf told Libya News 24 yesterday as a result of the financial corruption that the country is experiencing.

He said that some have been in the port for more than 5 months and that most of the goods in them had perished and began to let off a foul smell. The containers had passed the legal time limit permitted by Libyan customs and that the port authority is in the process of disposing of or selling by auction their contents, he added.

‘‘Financial corruption is (the reason) behind these abandoned containers as some traders scramble for letters of credit (LCs) from banks at the official exchange rate. They buy cheap or useless products and leave them inside the port after they receive their hard currency which they use as they wish’’

The Deputy Manager said that some containers were actually empty and others contain products that no one needs – all done through fake and incorrect transactions. In some containers alcohol and (hallucinogenic) pills were found – all as a result of traders seeking dollars which they are not entitled to, he maintained.

The phenomenon of containers arriving at Libyan ports either empty or filled with goods costing a token of their declared price on official customs declarations forms has grown in post-revolutionary Libya as a result of the weak state and its weak enforcement and inspection institutions.

In theory, goods arriving at Libyan ports imported through the opening of LCs at the official exchange value of about LD 1.30 (as opposed to the black market rate of LD 3 to 4.50) to the dollar, are supposed to be inspected by customs officers to confirm that their contents tally with their pro forma invoice in value and specifications.

If the inspections of containers by customs officials at Libyan ports raise concerns, the LCs are supposed to be stopped. However, by bribing or in the case of militias coercing customs, port and bank officials, fake import transactions are able to get through.

As a result, corrupt ‘‘traders’’ in collaboration with bank, port and customs officials, are opening LCs in the millions of dollars which are transferred abroad – but in return for either grossly undervalued goods or indeed empty containers.

The scam is costing Libyans hundreds of millions in hard currency at a time when low oil production and exports and low international crude oil prices mean that Libya’s hard currency revenues and reserves are depleting fast.

Commenting on the news, leading Libyan businessman Husni Bey whose group of companies are one of the largest importers of goods into Libya, said ‘‘we thank the Deputy Manager of the port of Tobruk for exposing and broaching the subject’’.

‘‘I ask him and the rest of the managers of Libyan ports to quote the names of the companies involved in the import, the names of shareholders of these companies, the names of the directors and the names of the signatories of the companies’ bank accounts’’.

‘‘I also request the names of the shipping lines, forwarders and carriers’ agents of those to be revealed. A thorough independent investigation must be carried out’’, Bey added.

Speculating on the possible size of the problem, Bey said ‘‘If there are 500 abandoned containers in the port of Tobruk, this is just the tip of the iceberg, then certainly there are 10,000 abandoned containers across all Libyan ports’’.

‘‘I hope that we call criminals “criminals” and not “traders ” because criminal offenders must be called “criminal” and not by any other misleading name “, Bey concluded.

It will be recalled that in February this year the Attorney General/Public Prosecutors Office had issued a number of arrest warrants for financial corruption including for abandoned containers in Tripoli port that first came to light in August 2015.

In November 2015 it was reported that 110 containers of rice unfit for human consumption were unloaded at Tripoli port. Social media had shown photos of insect infected rice.

The insect-infected 110 containers were reported to be part of a larger deal totalling 400 containers for 10,000 metric tons of rice at an estimated value of LD 10.3 million.

LH 10.03.2016

Asia-Europe Containers Rates: Continuous downward trend – falling $193 to $640 per TEU


Rates took another battering this week on the Asia-Europe trade, falling $193 to $640 per TEU. The last two weeks alone have seen rates on the key East-West route fall a staggering 42%, highlighting the farce that is GRI’s. Rates year to date are now on average 47% lower than the corresponding period of 2014, at $673 per TEU.
Alternatively at the start of 2015 carriers could of utilized hedging tools to protect themselves from rate erosion. The forward curve from January 2015 highlights that carriers had an opportunity to lock in a proportion of their income at levels substantially higher than the year to date average. Moreover by securing a proportion of their income in advance they could have removed or limited the effects of rate volatility on their business.

Since January the forward curve has subsequently moved lower in line with the collapse in freight rates. Today the curve, although lower, can still provide carriers with a tool to secure a proportion of their income in advance and therefore remove the uncertainty surrounding freight rate developments. With Maersk Line again reiterating its view that the market will remain under pressure due to overcapacity and weak demand, being able to accurately forecast future freight income should serve as a useful tool to the carrier community.

Even Maersk Line was unable to fully protect itself from the most recent declines in freight rates. The Danish carrier saw its average freight rate per FEU fall by over 14% year on year during Q2 resulting in a reduction in income of 9.2% or $639m. This was despite an increase in lifting’s of 3.7% to 2.5m FEU.
The saving grace once again came through cost reductions, which saw unit costs decline by 13% ($338) to $2,246. However the reduction was not due to operational efficiencies with the fall in bunker costs resulting in a saving per FEU of $220. The remaining savings were predominately attributed to the appreciation of the USD.

Also interest of note was that Maersk Line decided to adjust its growth target from growing in line with the market to growing at least with the market to defend its market leading position. As seen during Q2 the Danish line is prepared to lower the rates it offers to customers if it results in a retention of market share. This adjustment should send warning signals to other carriers who may have been thinking about increasing their own market share at the expense of Maersk Line.



FIS 18/08/2015