Clashes between rival militias in the vicinity of the ports of El-Sider and Ras Lanuf have prompted Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) to declare force majeure at the two terminals, a measure that provides legal protection for a company when it cannot fulfill a contract due to reasons beyond its control.

El-Sider and Ras Lanuf are respectively Libya’s biggest and third-biggest oil terminals, and have a combined capacity of 560,000 barrels a day (b/d).

The announcement from NOC comes after armed forces loyal to the country’s elected government carried out air strikes near the terminals on troops belonging to the militia coalition Libya Dawn on 13 December.

An unelected government supported by Libya Dawn currently controls Tripoli and the surrounding area, while the elected government has moved to the small eastern city of Tobruk for security reasons.

The two rival governments are currently engaging in a rapidly escalating struggle to control territory and Libya’s oil revenues.

Last week, the Tobruk-based government, led by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, announced it was changing the country’s oil revenue payments system to try and prevent its rival in Tripoli from seizing control of the funds.

Al-Thani said military forces loyal to the elected government were launching operations to take back control of Libya’s capital.

On 14 December, battles between pro-government and Libya Dawn forces in the country’s west saw Tunisia close the Ras Ajdir border crossing, the main gateway between the two countries.

Pro-government forces have since declared they are in control of an area extending from Abu Kammash, a town about 100 kilometres west of Tripoli, till the Ras Ajdir border crossing.

Advances by Libya Dawn forces on the ports of El-Sider and Ras Lanuf have, so far, been repelled by forces loyal to the government.

The ports were barricaded in July 2013 by militants demanding more independence for Libya’s eastern region.

The previous closure of the port ended with a handover ceremony on 2 July this year at Ras Lanuf.