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Figure 10. Transportation System, 1985

Although the transportation and communications sector was a relatively unimportant contributor to GDP (5.2 percent in 1984), it absorbed a large share of the annual development budgets. In 1982 actual expenditure on transportation and communications (including shipping) comprised 17.5 percent of total development budget expenditure. Much of this expenditure was oil-sector-related in that it was designed to lessen oil transport costs and to facilitate access to hydrocarbon development sites.


Libya's road network has been considerably expanded since 1978. At that time, Libya had only about 8,800 kilometers of roads, of which perhaps one-half were paved. However, by 1985 Libya possessed between 23,000 and 25,600 kilometers of paved roads. Surfaced roads existed between the north and the southern oases of Al Kufrah, Marzuq, and Sabha. These roads have done much to end the isolation of these remote settlements. In particular, the agricultural projects underway in the desert oases have benefited from the more efficient crop marketing made possible by these roads. The National General Company for Roads oversaw all new construction and maintenance.

The number of vehicles in Libya steadily increased in the 1970s and early 1980s. By 1985 there were 313,000 automobiles and trucks in the country, as well as about 70,000 buses. The ratio of automobile ownership to population was on a par with that of many West European countries. Urban and interurban bus routes were maintained by the state-owned General Corporation for Public Transport.

As of 1985, Libya had no railroads; however, discussions had been held with China over the possibility of technical assistance in railway construction. Plans existed for a possible rail link between the Tunisian rail system and Tripoli. Another possible project envisioned transporting iron-ore deposits in the Fezzan to the Misratah iron and steel works via rail. Given Libya's financial constraints in the mid-1980s, however, prospects for these projects were not bright.

Libya has had a long history of port congestion. In 1977 the average waiting time for ships to be unloaded in Tripoli harbor was 24 days. Consequently, since the mid-1970s, port improvements have been a top priority for the government. These improvements raised Libya's total dry cargo handling capacity from 10.5 million tons in 1976 to 13.7 million tons in 1980. In 1985 major cargo-handling ports were located at Tripoli, Benghazi, Tobruk, and Qasr Ahmad (near Misratah). Projects underway at Tripoli in 1985 were designed to raise the port's handling capacity to 12.5 million tons a year. Similar construction projects at the Benghazi port envisioned expanding its capacity to 3.5 million tons a year. Qasr Ahmad was equipped to handle about 1.5 million tons a year. Plans for a new port facility also were being formulated in 1985 to provide logistical support to the Bouri offshore oil field, which was then coming into production.

In the mid-1970s, Libya embarked on an ambitious program of ship acquisition to build up its merchant fleet. However, it failed to take into account world competition and, by 1977, as much as 70 percent of its total tonnage was idle--the largest such proportion in the world at that time. Libya has since sold a number of its tankers and in 1985 owned fourteen oil tankers and eighteen cargo ships.

Civil aviation in Libya in 1987 was the responsibility of the Secretariat of Communications, which operated all airports, and the Civil Aviation Institute, which trained all personnel. The three internation airports in 1985 were located at Tripoli (Al Aziziyah), Benghazi (Benina), and Sabha. Smaller airfields were located at Marsa al Burayqah, Tobruk Ghat, Ghadamis, Al Kufrah, and several other locations. Most civil air personnel went abroad for training. Britain suspended its air traffic control training program for Libyans in 1985, but Pakistan subsequently agreed to train about seventy-eight Libyan air traffic controllers.

The national air carrier, Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), was nationalized in 1973. Possessing only a dozen aircraft in 1977, it grew rapidly, expanding its fleet to twenty-five aircraft in 1985. The main aircraft in service were manufactured by Boeing, Hawker Siddeley, Caravelle, and Fokker. In 1980, LAA carried 1.17 million passengers. A new carrier called United African Airlines (UAA) was created in 1985 in association with LAA.

Data as of 1987

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