By Dr. Mohamed Karbal, Managing Partner at Karbal & Co.
Despite the current security problems, the Libyan government due to its efforts to rebuild the New Libya, has situated the nation at the apex of a widely-anticipated economic boom of development in all sectors. Prior to the revolution of 2011, Libya’s exports reached $30 billion USD and its imports exceeded $6 Billion USD.
With new liberal economic views and the willingness to compensate for the 42 years of stagnation under the Gaddafi regime, Libya’s economic development is projected to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Libya is largely dependent on imports, consisting mainly of industrial and food commodities. Libya’s biggest trading partner is the European Union and Italy leads with 30% of Libyan imports. This significance of the Libya/EU trade-link across the Mediterranean is undisputed as the seaports of Libya are invigorating their connections to the southern European seaports.
This will continue to play an increasingly important role in the future. The Libyan foreign trade is carried out through seven major commercial seaports, seven petroleum seaports, and one seaport for the steel industry. This significant number will be the basis of the trade link across the Mediterranean once security and stability dominate the Libyan political scene.
The seaports are reasonably equipped, nevertheless, in the near future the Libyan government will be investing in improving the efficiency and productivity of its seaports. The government is presently contemplating involving foreign investors to develop and operate the Libyan seaports on the basis of public-private partnership (PPP).
As the efficiency of these seaports improves, the frequency of ships berthing at Libyan ports is expected to increase. It is a commercial fact that the majority of ships calling at the Libyan ports are neither registered in Libya nor owned by Libyan entities. With the expected increase of the tonnage and containers to be handled by the Libyan seaports, legal problems between the foreign ship-owners and shippers are expected to increase before the Libyan courts.