RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief) has called on the United Nations and wider international community to take ‘urgent and immediate action’ to contain the risk of the explosion or sinking of the Safer oil tanker the charity said in a release issued Monday.
The tanker, which is anchored in the sea, close to Ras Isa Port in the Al Hudaydah Governorate of Yemen, is carrying more than a 1.5 million barrels of crude oil, and is at risk of creating a major oil spill in the Red Sea, the release stated, adding that such an event would cause a major environmental disaster in Yemen and other countries with Red Sea coastlines.
“Thus far, the Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen who control the area where the tanker is located, have ignored all international pleas and warnings about the potentially catastrophic oil spill; they have repeatedly refused either to perform necessary maintenance on the tanker themselves or to allow a team of international experts to access it and take steps to avoid disaster,” the statement warned.
The statement follows previous warnings from KSrelief, who previously warned that the condition of the Safer oil tanker had reached a critical state of degradation, and that the situation was a threat to all Red Sea countries, particularly Yemen.
The statement went on to warn that the ship was at risk of exploding at any time due to the ongoing lack of maintenance since the Houthi coup.
“In addition to the real possibility of an imminent explosion, the overall deterioration of the tanker’s pipe system and other equipment and the disruption of its firefighting system make the condition of the tanker even more precarious, and more dangerous,” the statement added.
“The degradation of the tanker’s pipes and other infrastructure, if left unaddressed, will cause inert gases and crude oil to leak, spilling the huge cargo of crude oil directly into the Red Sea; from there, it will spread into the Bab al-Mandab Strait and into the Arabian Sea.”
Such a leak would not only cause large-scale destruction of the marine environment, but also result in the isolation of more than 115 Red Sea islands, and “such a catastrophic spill would also effectively end the ability of island residents to live and work there.”
The KSrelief statement said there was an urgent need for extensive maintenance of the tanker, and an immediate intervention to oblige the militia to allow UN technical teams to carry out this maintenance, and to enable technical and engineering teams to unload the crude oil as soon as possible and in an environmentally acceptable manner.
“KSrelief calls upon the international humanitarian community, including UN organizations and agencies, to take a stand against this serious environmental threat to Red Sea coastal populations in order to save lives and livelihoods,” the statement concluded, adding: “But also to avoid the potential disruption of aid delivery to Yemen by sea, which is an important method for getting aid to many parts of the country.”