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Region's oil firms counting the cost of Libyan crisis

PUBLISHED: 05:31 09 March 2011 | UPDATED: 16:02 09 March 2011

Fishermen in Tripoli

Fishermen in Tripoli

Archant

It is the land of plenty that became the land of the departed when thousands fled to the borders to escape Libya's conflict.

And as well as the country’s people, the effect is also being felt in East Anglia as businesses try to cope with the fallout in the Libyan oil industry.

As a hub for firms operating in offshore oil and gas, many of the region’s businesses have ties in the North African country, many of which had staff there when the rebellion began.

And the freeze on the industry, which is already being linked to rising world oil prices, is also impacting on business.

Great Yarmouth-based Compass, which provides equipment and services to the oil industry, was forced to cut its workforce and begin a global search for new markets when its trade with the country ground to a halt in a matter of days.

The firm was forced to cut five jobs from its Yarmouth operation, which now employs about 20, after large sums of money became trapped in Libya when trade stopped.

Now the company hopes to soften the blow to its turnover by expanding into markets in South America, Eastern Europe and Kazakhstan.

Simon Jennings, marketing director, said: “As a company based in oil equipment and services we have been affected by the situations in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

“The Libyan crisis meant we have lost five jobs in Yarmouth, but it was a pro-active measure to prevent us losing 10 people further down the line.

“Those people who have lost their jobs know that as soon as this is over they will be straight back.”

Compass, which has shipped £100m worth of equipment to Libya in the past 25 years, faced similar difficulties in Egypt and Tunisia when payments stopped in light of those countries’ protests.

Money from the two countries is now finding its way back to the East of England, but Mr Jennings said the situation in three countries was likely to have an effect on the firm’s turnover, of between £3.5m and £5m.

He continued: “Our turnover is going to be significantly affected. The amount all depends on how long the Libyan crisis goes on for, and how we can expand in our territories.

“The steps we have taken now means we will be all right in the long term, but hopefully things will turn around and rectify themselves.

“Now, it’s a case of which opportunities you try to go for. There are always lots of avenues that you can take.

“The Libyan situation means we can follow some of these through and get connected with Eastern Europe and Kazakhstan.”

British oil workers evacuated from the Libyan desert have returned with tales of damage to the country’s oil infrastructure, as oil rigs are stripped and gangs rob people at gunpoint.

Compass, which also has a small US office, currently employs Libyan locals in its office in Tripoli to provide valves and personal protection equipment to oil companies.

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