July 18 (UPI) -- The kidnapping of employees at an oil field in Libya forced the suspension of operations at a key port, though investors remain confident enough to stay active.
The U.N.-backed National Oil Corp. on Tuesday suspended the loading of crude oil at the Zawiya port in western Libya after unknown assailants kidnapped employees at the Sharara oil field. Of the four taken initially, two were released.
The NOC said production was limited at the field to 125,000 barrels of oil per day, enough for refinery requirements, but not enough to export from Zawiya.
"This incident required us to shutdown and evacuate a number of stations," NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement. "We have to prioritize local demand for fuel. For the time being all Sharara production will go to the refinery."
Libyan instability re-emerged as a market concern in June when two of the storage tanks at the Ras Lanuf port suffered catastrophic damage during militant attacks. The NOC said reconstruction efforts could take several years, especially considering the tense security situation in the country.
The declaration on Tuesday caused crude oil prices to jump in afternoon trading by about 1 percent, before settling back down by the end of the day. Libyan issues have been one of the contributing factors to the recent volatility in the price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark.
Amid the turmoil, international investment firm The Guidry Group unveiled plans for what it says will be the largest deepwater sea port in North Africa near the city of Susah in northeastern Libya.
Michael Guidry, the founder and CEO of The Guidry Group, said the "billion-dollar" port design was selected by Libyan leaders in 2015.
"Ultimately, our united goal is not only to stimulate trade and commerce, but to unite Libyans behind one common objective - recovery and infrastructure redevelopment in the war-torn nation to the benefit of all people," he said in a statement emailed to UPI.
Libyan stability is a Western concern. The governments of France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States commended positive steps on authority in the Libyan oil belt last week. Analysts at the Economic Intelligence Unit, however, said damage to national infrastructure meant Libyan oil would continue to face bottlenecks.
Guidry said in response to questions emailed by UPI the new port infrastructure would be accommodating to oil and oil-related products and designed to take in the largest class of vessels.
"It is peaceful and there are no security issues right now," he added.