The intransigence of the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen is preventing United Nations efforts to assess and repair the eroding Safer oil tanker that has been moored off the coast of Hodeidah for five years, diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Britain’s Ambassador to Yemen Micheal Aron told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis have yet to grant the UN engineers entry permits. He added that the formation of the team of experts may take months because they hail from different countries from around the world.
He said he was awaiting an agreement between the UN and Houthis, but the militias still had doubts over the organization’s plan.
He did express optimism that the issue will be resolved, saying that Houthis want the repairs to be made, but keep the cargo of 1.1 million barrels of oil on board.
The UN agreed to this demand, but the repairs need new spare parts that its team needs to purchase, Aron added.
The UN plan originally called for carrying out the necessary repairs and immediately unloading the oil to avoid an environmental disaster.
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.
For years, the UN has been trying to send inspectors to assess the damage aboard the vessel known as the FSO Safer and look for ways to secure the tanker by unloading the oil and pulling the ship to safety, but they have repeatedly been met with Houthi resistance.