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Grain cargoes being diverted from Libya -sources
Two French barley cargoes of to divert, one to Lebanon.
February 24, 2011 11:15 by Reuters
Grain cargoes bound for Libya are being diverted because of port closures as a revolt against Muammar Gaddafi disrupts economic life in the North African country, shipping sources said on Wednesday.
Oil-rich Libya imports large quantities of grain. Prior to the crisis, an official said the country expected to import 1.3 million tonnes of wheat in 2011.
Two cargoes of French barley initially due to be shipped to Libya from the northern French port of Rouen were being re-routed to other countries, shipping sources said.
A consignment of 11,000 tonnes of barley, which finished loading on Tuesday evening at Rouen on board the Muzafer Ana ship, will now go to Lebanon, they said.
A second barley cargo of 6,500 tonnes, due to load at Rouen at the end of this week, will also be diverted, and discussions are continuing about a new destination, the sources said.
“In the current situation it is necessary to find by any means another destination,” one of the sources said.
Cargo and container ports in Libya have halted operations because of the upheaval in the country, according to shipping sources.
While grain cargoes were diverted, however, at least three oil cargoes managed to leave Libyan ports in the past 24 hours, trade and shipping sources said on Wednesday.
Prior to the crisis, the World Food Programme (WFP) had used Libya’s eastern port of Benghazi as a transport corridor for its aid operations in Chad. Food cargoes would then be trucked from Benghazi through the Sahara to Chad by the United Nations agency.
The WFP said on Wednesday that two vessels previously going direct to Benghazi in early and mid March were being diverted to Port Sudan.
“All commodities – sorghum, wheat and yellow split peas – are destined for WFP operations in Chad,” a spokeswoman said.
The spokeswoman said its staff in Libya, as far as it knew, were safe but their movement was restricted.
“Any relocation of UN staff from Libya may seriously affect the transit of commodities for WFP’s Chad operation,” she said.
Thousands of Libyans celebrated the liberation of Benghazi from the rule of Gaddafi, who was reported to have sent a plane to bomb them on Wednesday as he clung to power.
As many as 1,000 people have been killed in since the revolt began around a week ago, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said as world leaders scrambled to evacuate their citizens and disagreed on how to end the turmoil.
French shipping firm CMA CGM said on Wednesday its services to four container ports in Libya remained suspended.
“CMA CGM ships’ calls at Libyan ports — Benghazi, Misurata, Khoms and Tripoli — are temporarily suspended,” the company told Reuters via email.
Italian shipping company Grimaldi also said it had suspended transport services to Tripoli and Khoms.
“We will see how the situation evolves this week to decide whether we will be resuming our regular services,” a spokesman said.
France, the European Union’s top wheat exporter, has shipped since the start of the 2010/11 season on July 1 nearly 30,000 tonnes of barley to Libya and close to 300,000 tonnes of wheat.