UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Libyan Navy

Traditionally, the navy's primary mission was to defend the coast and to assist the other services in maintaining internal security and public order. After the previously separate customs and harbor police were joined with the navy in a single command under the Ministry of Defense in 1970, the mission was extended to include responsibilities for curbing smuggling and for enforcing customs laws.

Libya is in a complicated and sensitive period, following a bloody months-long conflict and the fall of a dictatorship that left the country without any institutions worth mentioning. The issue now was to create new authority, new institutions and, new leadership. This is true for the Navy, and the country as a whole. UNSMIL’s support to defence sector reform in Libya aims to assist national efforts to identify the main risks and threats facing Libya, and to confirm the principal military tasks, doctrine and vision, civilian democratic oversight, overall command and control issues, and basic structure of the armed forces.

The navy under Qadhafi had always been the stepchild of the Libyan armed forces, and many vessels were not operational and seldom went to sea. The overall operational effectiveness of the navy was very low, and by 2010 the operational status of the many units was doubtful. It is probable that what remained of Qadhafi's navy was destroyed by NATO in 2011.

NATO and coalition air assets continued their precision airstrikes against pro-Qadhafi regime forces with a coordinated strike against pro-Qadhafi forces in the ports of Tripoli, Al Khums and Sirte. On 20 May. 2011 NATO aircraft hit pro-Qadhafi warships, striking eight vessels. “All NATO’s targets are military in nature and are directly linked to the Qadhafi regime’s systematic attacks on the Libyan people,” said Rear-Admiral Russell Harding, Deputy Commander Operation Unified Protector. “Given the escalating use of naval assets, NATO had no choice but to take decisive action to protect the civilian population of Libya and NATO forces at sea,” he further added.

Over the previous couple of weeks NATO had witnessed indiscriminate mining and the escalating use of force by pro-Qadhafi maritime forces. This directly disrupted the safe flow of desperately needed humanitarian assistance and put NATO forces at risk. This development of pro-Qadhafi tactics also demonstrated a clear intent to attack NATO forces. NATO took deliberate action in carefully planned and coordinated responses to demonstrate our resolve to protect the civilian population of Libya, using appropriate and proportionate force. “All the vessels targeted last night were naval warships with no civilian utility,” said Rear-Admiral Harding.

On April 29th, pro-Qadhafi forces used pro-Qadhafi maritime assets to mine the entrance to the port of Misrata. On a further three occasions, pro-Qadhafi maritime assets had been intercepted by NATO ships. This included an incident where NATO interdicted a booby-trapped vessel leading to the discovery and subsequent destruction of one tonne of explosives at sea.

The Libyan navy 20 August 2013 announced it was starting patrols to prevent illegal exports of Libyan oil. The Chief of Staff of Libyan Naval Forces warned foreign government, as well as marine companies and shipping agencies, that its vesselss had began sea patrols off the oil ports of Sidra, Ras Lanuf and Brega, following orders from the government and the Libyan Chief of Staff. The navy intended to inspect tankers in the area to ensure all comply with safety procedures and none is shipping Libyan crude oil without proof of a contract from National Oil Corporation, it being the only legitimate body authorised to contract and export Libyan oil. The Navy said it would, in cooperation with the Air Force, warn unauthorised tankers to leave the area. If any refuse, they would be intercepted and escorted to the nearest port. The naval bases in Tripoli and Benghazi and the Misrata coast guard would provide six vessels in all in the operation.

The standoff between the government and federalist militias in the East over control of Libyan oil escalated in January 2014. The militias said they will start selling oil independently within days. Libyan navy vessels fired on a Maltese tanker that attempted to load oil at one port that has been out of government control for six months. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, who held off trying to lift the blockade by force fearing violence could get out of hand, warned he is ready to “destroy or sink” any vessel that tries to load oil controlled by the federalists. Zeidan’s authority had been weakened in large part by his failure to engineer an end to the seven-month blockade by federalists of three vital eastern oil terminals at Ras Lanuf, Es Sider and Zueitina, which collectively account for 60 percent of Libya’s oil exports. The blockade has stifled oil production, the main source of government revenue, which had fallen to ten percent of capacity.

Libyan navy and pro-government militias dispatched boats on March 09, 2014 to a port held by a rival militia to stop a North Korean flagged tanker from exporting oil sold without government permission. The government had banned militias from selling crude oil directly to the world market. Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan threatened to bomb the tanker if it did not comply with Libyan government orders. He said the bombing would result in an "environmental disaster."

The tanker Morning Glory obtained the oil from rebels controlling the Al-Sidra terminal, one of three ports in eastern Libya and occupied since July by rebels demanding more autonomy and a greater share of the country's oil wealth. The Libyan navy intercepted the ship as it attempted to leave the eastern port of As-Sidra and was leading it "to a port controlled by the state." A rebel spokesman had earlier denied they had lost control of the ship. The vessel - Morning Glory - is North Korea-flagged, but it is not clear who actually owns it. Shipping sources say it is a flag of convenience to keep ownership secret.

The North Korean-flagged ship took a cargo of oil from a rebel-held terminal in the east, escaped naval ships deployed to intercept it, and made it to international waters. The ship moved to international waters after a brief firefight with naval vessels. "The tanker was secured and protected by rebel forces while in Libyan waters and until it reached international waters, at which point the accompanying boats retreated into the port," said Faraj Mismari, a rebel commander.

The Pentagon announced March 17, 2014 that US Navy SEALs have seized an oil tanker carrying crude illicitly obtained from a rebel-held port in Libya. The Defense Department said no one was hurt in the boarding of the "stateless vessel seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans." The statement said the action was requested by the Libyan and Cypriot governments and approved by President Barack Obama.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 09-02-2017 19:36:08 ZULU