Yemen’s Houthi-led government has agreed to allow a UN mission to inspect and repair an abandoned, decaying oil tanker said to be holding 1.1 million barrels of oil over fears of a potentially devastating oil spill which would have a huge environmental impact on the Red Sea’s ecosystems and effectively shut down the country’s vital Hudaydah port.
The UN said the FSO Safer is “rapidly decaying” and described what it says is a “catastrophe in waiting” both in terms of the humanitarian and environmental consequences should the tanker leak.
The UN-recognised Yemeni government based in Saudi Arabia and the Sanaa-based government have traded accusations as to who is at fault over the anchored tanker’s neglect.
In July Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, a senior member of the Supreme Political Council said a maintenance team had been dispatched to the tanker but the Saudi-led coalition had blocked access to the necessary equipment.
Earlier this month, the Yemeni government accused the Sanaa authorities of denying access to UN maintenance experts with the Minister of Oil and Minerals Aws Al-Awd claiming that the Houthis keep seizing the oil because the Yemeni government does not want to let them collect import taxes.
Last week, a UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric confirmed that the Houthi-led government had agreed by letter and said it was “an important step forward in…critical work” following months of negotiations.
However workers and equipment will likely arrive by late January or early February, according to Dujarric.