Jul 12, 2020 15:59 UTC
  •  Yemen’s Ansarullah agree to give UN access to stranded oil tanker: Sources

Yemen’s Ansarullah movement has agreed to provide the United Nations with access to an abandoned oil tanker that risks causing environmental disaster off the western coast of the country.

Two unnamed UN sources, familiar with the matter, announced the news in interviews with Reuters on Sunday, a few days after the world body said it had become extremely concerned after water entered the engine room of the Safer tanker.

For over five years the Ill-fated vessel, which carries 1.1 million barrels of crude oil, has been marooned several kilometers outside the Red Sea oil terminal of Ras Issa, north of the major port city of Hudaydah. 

The vital terminal was used for exporting Ma’rib’s light crude oil before a Saudi-led military coalition laid a crippling and simultaneous aerial, naval, and land blockade on Yemen.

The sources further told Reuters that Ansarullah, who control the port, had sent a letter approving the deployment of a UN technical team to the stranded tanker, which is said to contain 34 crude oil tanks of different sizes and volumes, amounting to a total capacity of about 3 million barrels. 

In June last year, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council that a leak or explosion of the vessel could be much worse than the Exxon Valdez oil spill of the late 1980s in Alaska.

“If the tanker ruptures or explodes, we could see the coastline polluted all along the Red Sea,” Lowcock, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said at the time.

“Depending on the time of year and water currents, the spill could reach from Bab el-Mandeb to the Suez Canal, and potentially as far as the Strait of Hormuz,” he added.

The UNSC is scheduled to hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Safer tanker issue.