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Post-war Tripoli port back in business, airport ready

Officials in Libya say port and airport safe; Civil airlines need to notify monitors of flight plans

September 19, 2011 10:57 by

Tripoli’s port is back to near-normal business less than a month after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, authorities said on Sunday, with the Libyan capital’s international airport also ready to operate flights.

As cranes lifted containers and sacks of goods onto the docks, and trucks manoeuvred into position to be loaded, port interim manager Abddel Hakim al-Ghazawi told Reuters the installation was safe and called on insurance companies to reduce fees related to use of the facility.

“Tripoli’s sea port is totally secure. There is nothing that can be an obstacle for the arrival of goods and ships,” he said.

“Already some companies have started to send ships,” he said, adding goods were being unloaded efficiently and 85-90 percent of the port was functioning.

The European Union lifted sanctions on Libyan ports, oil firms and banks on Sept. 2 to try and help the country’s transition from four decades of Gaddafi’s rule.

Mukhtar al-Akhdar, a military official in charge of the airport, told Reuters damage caused during the uprising has been repaired, the facility was “totally secure” and he hoped it would start operations by Thursday.

“The airport is ready for airplanes to arrive and depart,” he said. “We had to do some maintenance on the runway due to the shelling of the (Gaddafi) militia, which is now fixed. We cleared the remains of the planes that were destroyed by the militia.”

Diplomats say Libyan civil airliners and flights carrying official delegations are allowed to fly provided they notify monitors of their flight plans in order to avoid NATO attack.

The U.N. Security Council resolution imposed in March a no-fly zone for civilian flights over the country as part of international efforts to protect anti-government protesters under attack from Gaddafi loyalists.

Libyan Arab Airlines and the ports of Tripoli, Al Khoms, Brega, Ras Lanuf, Zawiyah and Zuara were among the 28 Libyan entities, along with oil firms and banks, to be freed from restrictions on Sept. 2.

The formal lifting of the sanctions came a day after world powers meeting in Paris freed up billions of dollars to help Libya’s new rulers rebuild the nation after 42 years of Gaddafi’s rule and six months of civil war.

The port had been a focal point in the conflict, which has continued in the towns of Bani Walid and Sirte as interim government forces try to storm the final bastions held by fighters loyal to Gaddafi.

In May, NATO sank eight Libyan warships and intercepted a fuel tanker it believed was heading for the military in the city in a marked escalation of its bombing campaign in Libya.

After the strikes, Libyan officials took journalists to the city’s port where a small ship spewed smoke and flames.

In late August, as anti-Gaddafi fighters overran the capital, they told a rescue ship not to dock at the port because it was too risky — leaving thousands of foreigners stranded at their embassies waiting for the all clear to leave. (By Mohammed al-Ramahi; Editing by William Maclean and Sophie Hares)

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