Tag Archives: Tobruk

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 MarineTraffic.com, 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

 

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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: 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