The Iran-backed Houthi militias are continuing to obstruct efforts to assess and repair the eroding Safer oil tanker that is moored off the Ras Issa coast in Yemen’s Hodeidah province.
Legitimate government spokesman Rajeh Badi revealed that the Houthis have prevented engineers from a company in Singapore, which was tasked by the United Nations to asses the tanker, from accessing the vessel.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis have refused to grant them permits to enter the rusting tanker, which has been stranded off the coast for five years and is still carrying a cargo of 1.1 million barrels of oil. Water has already started to leak into its engine room, prompting UN officials to warn of a major impending environmental disaster in the Red Sea, as well as the potential risk of a massive explosion caused by the buildup of gases in the storage tanks.
The Houthis are continuing their stalling, Badi said. They have no intention to resolve this issue or salvage whatever can be salvaged before the impending disaster.
The Houthis have claimed that they want engineers from another country to access Safer, he stated.
“The world must wake up. An explosion much worse than the one that took place at Beirut port could take place off Ras Issa,” he warned.
The United Nations envoy must frankly point to the sides that are obstructing the repair of the vessel, he urged.
British Ambassador to Yemen Michael Aron said the Houthis have rejected the UN plan to repair Safer.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis have not rejected the UN solution, but its plan, adding that this poses a problem.
The militias want another company to take over the repairs although the company from Singapore is specialized in handling such cases, the envoy revealed.
The UN is in contact with the Houthis to resolve the issue, he stated.
The operation will cost millions of dollars and is beyond the Houthis’ expertise and capabilities. They need UN help, Aron stressed.
The problem is big and dangerous, he continued. The repairs will not take place over a matter of days. Time is available, but the Houthi authorities need to facilitate the UN operation.