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UN Piles Pressure on Houthis to Grant Access to Eroding Safer Tanker

UN Piles Pressure on Houthis to Grant Access to Eroding Safer Tanker

Friday, 14 August, 2020 - 18:15
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (AP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen to allow an assessment team to travel to a decaying oil tanker that is threatening to spill 1.1 million barrels of crude oil off the war-torn country’s coast.

More than a month ago Houthi officials said they would agree to allow a UN mission to conduct a technical assessment and whatever initial repairs might be feasible on the Safer tanker. But the United Nations is still waiting for formal authorization.

Guterres is “deeply concerned” about the condition of the oil tanker, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday. The United Nations has warned that the Safer could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.

“He specifically calls for granting independent technical experts unconditional access to the tanker to assess its condition and conduct any possible initial repairs,” Dujarric said. “This ... will provide crucial scientific evidence for next steps to be taken in order to avert catastrophe.”

The Safer tanker has been stranded off Yemen’s Red Sea oil terminal of Ras Issa for more than five years. The UN Security Council has also called on the Houthis to facilitate unconditional access as soon as possible.

Earlier this week, legitimate government spokesman Rajeh Badi revealed that the Houthis have prevented engineers from a company in Singapore, which was tasked by the UN to assess 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.

They have no intention to resolve this issue or salvage whatever can be salvaged before the impending disaster, he said.

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.

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