TRANSPORTATION AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS
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
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