A UN team of experts could arrive in Yemen by late January or early February to inspect a long-abandoned fuel tanker which threatens to rupture and cause a massive oil spill, the United Nations said this week.
“I think if everything comes together, we would expect the Mission staff and the equipment to arrive on site by late January or early February,” Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary General, told reporters in New York.
The UN has been trying to assess the FSO Safer for years, but the Iran-backed Houthis have so far denied access. This week, the Houthis sent a letter confirming they would welcome the UN team of experts.
The 45-year-old vessel, abandoned near the western port of Hodeidah since 2015, has 1.1 million barrels of crude on board, and a rupture or explosion would have disastrous environmental and humanitarian consequences.
“The objective of the UN mission is to assess the vessel and undertake initial maintenance as well as to formulate recommendations on what further action is required to neutralize the risk of an oil spill,” said Dujarric.
The Yemeni government had filed a complaint with the UN Security Council, accusing the Houthis of obstructing access to the tanker.
Arab parliament chairman Adel Al-Asoumi had also urged the UN to take immediate measures to force the Houthi insurgents to grant access to UN experts.
In a letter sent to UN chief Antonio Guterres, he urged the international community not to keep silence on the Houthi intransigence.