Yemen raises concerns about increasing threats from aging oil tanker in Red Sea

August 8, 2020

Yemen has raised grave concerns over the decaying oil tanker in the Red Sea near the country’s port city of Hodeida. According to media reports, this development has come in the aftermath of the destruction caused by the recent explosion in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. The Safer, loaded with about 1.1 million barrels of crude oil, has been standing on the Yemeni Red Sea coast for almost five years now.

The Yemeni government, along with military officials and environmental activists have urged the international community to take global action to avoid any potential threats from the aging oil tanker. Government officials have called upon the international agencies to pressure the Houthi rebels to give access to the Safer to United Nations experts such that they can repair it as soon as possible.

Responding to the crisis, Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al Eryani also warned of a catastrophic impact of the vessel on the economy and environment of the country.

Reportedly, Houthis have denied to give access to the vessel Safer to the UN maintenance experts in spite of several requests for permission to inspect the vessel.

The tanker has shown signs of rusting and leaks with water entering the engine room. Such critical degrading conditions of the vessel have increased the risk of environmental disasters due to potential explosion, rupture or spillage of oil in the Red Sea. The UN Security Council has also taken note of the potential threats posed by the decaying 45-year-old FSO Safer moored off the coast of Yemen.

Last month, Iran-allied Houthi rebels had agreed on allowing a UN team to check the damage in the tanker, however, disagreements over the sale of its oil led to delays in the inspection. The UN maintenance team has been denied access to the oil tanker by Houthi rebels several teams, which has only increased the potential risks from the Safer.

Yemen-based environmental group Holm Akhdar (Green Dream) has warned of the calamitous consequences of the oil spillage for marine diversity and fishermen living around the port.

Releasing a report, the group said: “At least 115 of Yemen’s islands in the Red Sea would lose their biodiversity and their natural habitats. About 126,000 Yemeni fishermen — including 67,800 in Hodeida — would lose their only source of income because of the disaster.”

While the Yemeni government has urged the UN team to remove the oil from the ship, the Houthis have maintained that they will only permit them to inspect the ship after a broader agreement.

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