Risk of explosion of an oil tanker off Yemen


45 years old and containing 1.1 million barrels of crude, the FSO Safer has been anchored since 2015 off the port of Hodeida (archives). KEYSTONE / AP IR Consilium sda-ats

This content was published on August 16, 2020 – 00:31

Disagreements between rebels and the UN in Yemen have so far prevented the inspection and repair of an abandoned tanker off the coast of that country. Containing 1.1 million barrels of crude, the tanker could explode and cause an oil spill, according to the UN.

The 45-year-old FSO Safer has been anchored since 2015 off the port of Hodeida (west), about sixty kilometers from the first inhabited areas in the country at war between power and Houthi rebels since 2014.

The port is controlled by the Houthis who finally gave the green light in mid-July to the UN experts to inspect the tanker, but they are still waiting for a written authorization to be able to go there.

In a statement Friday, the spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres ruled that “the tragic explosion of August 4 in Beirut and the recent alarming oil spill in Mauritius require the vigilance of the whole world”.

“The structure, equipment and operating systems of the Safer are deteriorating, raising the risk of leakage, explosion or fire,” the UN warned in its statement. An incident could affect riparian countries, including Djibouti, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia, as well as commercial shipping traffic in the Red Sea.

No maintenance since 2015

Used as a floating storage platform, the ship has not undergone any maintenance since 2015, leading to erosion of its structure and deterioration of its condition.

The rebels insist that the UN inspection team assess and repair the ship in a single visit. But the UN wants its team, after an inspection and initial repairs, to be able to return to the ship if necessary. The rebels are also demanding the presence of a third country, Sweden or Germany, to oversee the repair process.

Studies by independent experts indicate, according to the UN, a risk of an oil spill that could destroy the ecosystems of the Red Sea, close the vital port of Hodeidah for six months and expose more than 8.4 million people at high levels of pollutants.

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