Risk of oil spills from Yemen, the Security Council crisis meeting

The Security Council will hold a special meeting on July 15 on an abandoned oil tanker off the port of Hodeidah, Yemen, with a load of 1.1 million barrels of crude oil threatening to permanently contaminate the Red Sea.

An abandoned oil tanker off Yemen with a load of 1.1 million barrels of crude oil can be broken at any time, which poses the risk of outstanding pollution in the Red Sea.

The 45-year-old FSOSafer has been anchored since 2015 from the port of Hodeidac, controlled by Houthi rebels who prevent UN experts from inspecting the ship.

The tanker has hardly been serviced since the war broke out more than five years ago between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the government backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

The Security Council holds a special meeting on July 15 on the issue, after a waterway was reported in the ship’s engine room, “which could have led to a disaster,” said StéphaneDujarric, spokesman. the word of the UN chief.

If experts have access to the ship, they will perform light repairs and determine the next step, the spokesman added on Friday. “We hope that the logistical arrangements will be made quickly so that this work can begin,” he said.

LeSafer may cause “the biggest regional and global environmental disaster,” the Yemeni government warned.

A senior rebel leader, Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, asked on Twitter in June for a guarantee that the ship would be repaired and that the value of the oil on board would be used to pay the wages of Houthi workers.

Transport is valued at $ 40 million, half of what it was before the price of crude oil fell, even less according to experts who speak of a poor quality cargo.

Yemen’s Prime Minister MaïAbdelmalek Saïd on Thursday called on the international community to punish the Houthis for preventing a UN inspection, and said the value of oil should be placed on health and humanitarian projects.

A time bomb

In addition to corrosion, gases can explode in the tanks and a leak in a cooling pipe was discovered in May.

“The hose broke, sent water into the engine room and created a really dangerous situation,” said IanRalby, CEO of IRConsilium, a marine consulting firm that closely monitors the situation.

A team from Safer Exploration and Production Operations, an oil company that was partially controlled by the Houthis, sent divers to repair the leak and narrowly avoid the ship sinking, he said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently warned that if the tanker breaks down, “it will destroy the Red Sea ecosystem” and disrupt major shipping lanes. “The Houthis must provide access before this time bomb explodes,” he said.

If the ship breaks down, “you will have two disasters”, warned Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen. “There will be an unparalleled environmental disaster (…) and it will be a humanitarian disaster because oil will make the port of Hodeidain usable,” she told AFP.

The Yemeni environmental group HolmAkhdar, “Green Dream” in Arabic, warned that an oil spill could spill over the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.

He added that the region would take 30 years to recover and that about 115 of the Red Sea islands would lose their natural habitats.

In a country where the majority of the population is already dependent on aid, an estimated 126,000 fishermen, including 68,000 in Hodeida, will lose their source of income.

“In the midst of a global pandemic and on the edge of a conflict zone, the chances of a rapid and adequate response (to pollution) are extremely low,” IRConsilium wrote in a report.

Doug Weir, head of research and policy at the British-based conflict and environmental observer, said: “The risks are clear: the longer the conflict, the more serious it will be and the more complex and costly all rescue efforts will be.”

With AFP