A senior official at the Safer Exploration & Production Operations Company (SEPOC), which owns the derelict FSO Safer oil tanker that is anchored off Hodeidah’s Red Sea coastline, voiced surprise at UN insistence to visit the rundown vessel for assessment.
Speaking under the conditions of anonymity, the official confirmed that SEPOC had provided the UN with comprehensive technical data on the status of Safer.
“This should allow for the UN to evaluate the situation and take a decision without visiting the tanker,” the official explained, adding that the UN team of experts has been trying to gain access to the oil vessel for the last two years without avail.
The spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Stephane Dujarric, has warned against the repercussions of the UN mission encountering new delays after recent additional requests from the Houthi militias regarding access to Safer.
Dujarric raised the alarm on any leak at Safer having devastating ecological, humanitarian and economic consequences, not only for the people of Yemen, but for the entire region around the Red Sea.
The tanker, moored with more than 1.1 million barrels of crude oil on board, has not had maintenance since 2015. Its equipment has deteriorated and it is now facing the risk of sinking.
The UN is seeking to send a team of experts to visit the tanker and conduct rapid maintenance to avoid a potential environmental catastrophe that affects the coasts of the countries on the Red Sea, not just Yemen. But the UN efforts have long been stalled by Houthis.
“The UN team was tasked with assessing the condition of Safer and coming up with plans for the best and safest way to empty the vessel’s crude oil reservoirs some two years ago,” the Safer official told Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that the international mission has failed in gaining access to the tanker because of Houthi obstruction.
A visit by the team of UN experts to the ship is estimated to cost about 3 million dollars, provided by several European countries. These countries include the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands.