Bulgarian Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski told Bulgarian national television on Tuesday that the row between Bulgaria and Libya over a detained Libyan vessel is merely a “private legal matter” after Libya threatened to seize all Bulgarian ships that enter its waters.
Libya issued its threat on Monday, after a private Bulgarian security company and a bailiff, accompanied by members of the Bulgarian maritime administration and coastguard service, boarded and detained the MT Badr oil tanker on December 21, Bulgarian newspaper 24 Hours reported on Monday.
The MT Badr is owned by the General National Maritime Transport Company, GNMTC, a Libyan state company.
The 24 Hours report cited what it said was a copy of an order that it claimed was issued by the head of the Libyan maritime administration, Omar Abdella Jawsi, to the ports in his country, which was made public by Arab and Bulgarian media.
In the order, the move to seize ships is described as a reciprocal measure against the “actions of the Bulgarian authorities”.
According to the 24 Hours report, the Libyan authorities are planning on raising the case at the UN General Assembly.
However the Bulgarian authorities maintain the case is a purely commercial matter.
BIRN contacted the Libyan embassy in Sofia, but received no answer by the time of publication. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
The MT Badr case was first reported on December 31 by investigative website Bivol.
Bivol reported that the 62,000-ton MT Badr oil tanker eventually left Bulgarian territorial waters on December 27 under a Panamanian flag, with a new name and a new crew made up of Ukrainian nationals.
In a press release issued on December 26, GNMTC claimed that the ship’s seizure in Bulgaria was illegal and contradicted a Bulgarian Supreme Court ruling on the same vessel in January 2018, which ordered that the ship be released after it was held on a previous occasion.
But the port in Burgas where the ship was held ignored the ruling and required it to remain within Bulgarian waters, where it did so until December 27.