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Report: Houthis Seeking Help to Prevent Massive Oil Spill off Yemen from Leaking FSO

The Houthis are asking for international assistance in preventing a decaying oil tanker from causing a major environmental disaster in the Red Sea, Al Jazeera reports.

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The Safer FSO is floating north of Hodeidah and is believed to be loaded with over 1 million barrels of crude oil. Based on the latest reports, the deserted oil tanker has started leaking oil into the Red Sea.

There is a concern that the dilapidated tanker might rapture causing a massive explosion and oil spill into the Gulf of Aden. Specifically, since the conflict broke out the ship was not maintained and its boilers have stopped producing inert gas, which is used to reduce the risk of explosion of gases released from the oil in FSOs and tankers.

As such it is believed the tanks inside the vessel contain a considerable amount of explosive gases.

The plea comes after Houthi rebels refused access to the tanker to the United Nations’ inspectors to assess the state of the deserted vessel, described as a “ticking bomb”. The tanker has been used as a bargaining chip for over a year between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition.

Houthi representatives say that the Saudi-led coalition had prevented them from unloading the tanker, thus reducing the danger from its explosion, which was guaranteed under the Stockholm agreement reached in December 2018 and pay salaries to the public sector. Under the deal, the parties agreed to remove military forces from the city of Hodeidah and the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa, allowing for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the impoverished Yemeni people.

The vessel was once used as a floating storage and offloading terminal (FSO) for vessels loading crude oil from a nearby Marib-Ras Isa pipeline. It has been moored 7km off the Ras Isa port since 1988 and fell under Houthi control in 2015 after the Houthi forces captured the port. The port is close to one of Yemen’s marine protected areas, home to mangroves and coral reefs.

Special Envoys of the UN have been calling for access to the Safer for over a year, to inspect the state of the vessel and avert a possible environmental disaster, which would jeopardize the survival and livelihoods of those living in the surrounding areas.

World Maritime News Staff