The EU Heads of Mission to Yemen on Tuesday released a statement blaming Iran-backed Houthi militias for a looming catastrophe tied to a possible leak or explosion at the derelict Yemeni oil tanker, Safer.
In a statement, the Mission said it will hold Houthi militias responsible in case of an oil leak from Safer, which is moored off Ras Isa Port in Hodeidah Governorate and is poorly storing over a million barrels of crude oil.
“The EU Heads of Mission to Yemen are deeply concerned about the situation regarding the FSO Safer off the coast of Hodeidah in the Red Sea. The oil tanker has been unmaintained for the last five years and is at imminent risk of producing a major health, environmental and economic catastrophe affecting millions of people in Yemen and beyond,” the statement read.
“Scientific studies have shown that a significant oil spill would most probably leave the port of Hodeidah out of operation, and thus impacting the food security of millions of Yemenis. In addition, it would heavily affect fisheries in the Red Sea coast as well as the marine ecosystem and may affect maritime trade. The likely loss of buoyancy of the oil would further complicate any clean-up operation,” it added.
“Additionally, in the event of an explosion or fire, a massive toxic smoke plum would have a severe effect on respiratory health and agricultural crops, putting pressure on a healthcare system already exhausted from conflict, cholera and COVID-19,” it warned.
The EU ambassadors also called on concerned parties to adhere to the expert recommendations, emphasizing that it is in the interest of the highly vulnerable Yemeni population that everything is done to prevent a possible catastrophe.
“Unless the UN team is provided unhindered access, Houthis would be accountable in the event of a regional catastrophe,” the statement said.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hadrami on Monday blamed Houthis for exploiting the situation at Safer to negotiate political deals.
Houthis control access to the oil tanker and have been denying it to UN teams of experts who are tasked with assessing the ship’s standing and perform maintenance works.
Faris al-Jadbi, member of the Yemeni government’s economic committee, explained that Houthis consider the Safer dilemma a politicized issue that can be manipulated to exact economic blackmail.
“Many economic solutions were offered to Houthis by the government and other world states. But they were all rejected,” al-Jadbi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Houthis have insisted on their position to keep the rundown tanker to threaten navigation in the Red Sea and to detonate it in case there was an attempt to liberate the port of Hodeidah from their hold,” he added.