The Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen required from UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths that they keep the oil stored on board the Safer oil tanker in exchange for allowing a team of experts to perform maintenance work on the derelict vessel, well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Regional and international concerns have been expressed over the erosion of the tanker and the ensuing environmental disaster that could take place if left neglected off the coast of Ras Issa.
Sources, speaking under the conditions of anonymity, said that Houthis informed Griffiths that they might allow a team of UN experts to visit the FSO Safer in case the UN approves to keep the oil on board the vessel.
According to sources, the Houthis are looking to use the vessel as a pressure card and ticking time bomb to extort the international community in the future.
The decaying tanker has been abandoned off the coast with 1.2 million barrels of crude on board, which experts say could rupture at any time.
The 45-year-old FSO Safer is anchored off the port of Hodeidah under the control of Houthis, who have previously blocked efforts to send inspectors to assess its condition.
A UN plan aims to assess the tanker and carry out the necessary maintenance for it, and to empty it of oil immediately to avoid any leak that would lead to an environmental and economic disaster.