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UNSC Discusses Dangers of Yemen’s Safer Oil Tanker

UNSC Discusses Dangers of Yemen’s Safer Oil Tanker

Thursday, 16 July, 2020 - 07:45
Satellite image taken for the Safer oil tanker, Reuters
New York – Ali Barada

The UN Security Council held the its first session focused on discussing the derelict Safer oil tanker, docked off Ras Issa port in Yemen, amid fears that the tanker may explode leading to a major oil spill which threatens the marine environment and the economy of Yemen and its neighbors.


UNSC’s current President Christoph Heusgen (Germany), in his calls with concerned parties on Yemen, called for placing pressure on Iran-backed Houthis into allowing international experts to reach the tanker and assess its standing. This comes in response to several calls of the internationally- recognized Yemeni government.


UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, in a video press conference, said that the international body has repeatedly expressed its deep concerns towards the rundown oil tanker, pointing to the pending environmental and ecological catastrophe.


The catastrophe will not only affect the direct coastline of the Red Sea but will spread into deep waters. This will affect navigation in a region that includes major trading routes.


Dujarric noted that progress has been made on Houthis giving a written approval to allow a UN team of experts to inspect Safer.

The UN spokesman hoped that work will start in the next few weeks.


The condition of the aging vessel, Safer – officially owned by the Government of Yemen, but controlled since 2015 by Houthis - is deteriorating daily, upping the risk of an oil spill that would wreck ecosystems and livelihoods for decades, said United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Chief, Inger Andersen.


The one-time supertanker, built in Japan in 1974, sprung a leak in late May, flooding its engine room with seawater and threatening to destabilize the vessel and spill its cargo, the Council was told.


UN Humanitarian Affairs Chief Mark Lowcock said that the Houthi authorities confirmed last week that they would accept a long-planned UN mission to the tanker, which will hopefully take place in the next few weeks.


“We have, of course, been here before”, he said, recalling that Ansar Allah – the Houthi militia’s formal name – gave similar assurances in August 2019, only to cancel the UN mission the night before it was to go out to the vessel.


“The Ansar Allah authorities have an important opportunity here to take steps that will spare millions of their fellow citizens from yet another tragedy,” said Lowcock, who leads the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).


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