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World Risk of an oil spill off Yemen, Security Council crisis meeting

15:40  12 july  2020
15:40  12 july  2020 Source:   france24.com

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The UN Security Council will hold a special meeting on July 15 on an abandoned tanker off the port of Hodeida, Yemen, containing a load of 1.1 million barrels of crude oil which threatens to permanently pollute the Red Sea.

An oil tanker abandoned off the Yemen with a load of 1.1 million barrels of crude oil risks breaking at any time, posing the risk of unprecedented pollution in the Red Sea.

The FSO Safer, 45 years old, has been anchored since 2015 off the port of Hodeida controlled by the rebel Houthis who prevent UN experts from inspecting the ship.

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The tanker has hardly been serviced since war broke out over five years ago between the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the government supported 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 engine room of the ship, "which could have led to a disaster," according to Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN chief.

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

The Safer could cause "the greatest environmental disaster regionally and globally," warned the Yemeni government.

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A top rebel leader, Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, asked in June on Twitter for a guarantee that the ship will be repaired and that the value of the oil on board will be used to pay the salaries of Houthi employees.

The shipment is valued at $ 40 million, half of what it was before the drop in the price of crude and even less according to experts who speak of a poor quality cargo.

Prime Minister of Yemen, Maïn Abdelmalek Saïd, called on Thursday the international community to punish the Houthis for having prevented a UN inspection, and declared that the value of oil should be spent on health and humanitarian projects.

A time bomb

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

"The hose burst, sending water into the engine room and creating a truly dangerous situation," said Ian Ralby, CEO of IR Consilium, a marine consultancy that is monitoring the situation closely.

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

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently warned that if the tanker breaks, "it will devastate the Red Sea ecosystem" and disrupt major shipping routes. "The Houthis must grant access before this time bomb explodes," he said.

If the ship breaks, "you're going to have two disasters," warned Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen. "There will be an unparalleled environmental disaster […] and it will be a humanitarian disaster because the oil will make the port of Hodeida unusable," she told AFP.

The Yemeni environmental group Holm Akhdar, "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 some 115 of the Red Sea islands would lose their natural habitats.

In a country where the majority of the population already depends on aid, it is estimated that 126,000 fishermen, including 68,000 in Hodeida, would 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," writes IR Consilium in a report.

For Doug Weir, director of research and policy at the Conflict and Environment Observatory, based in the United Kingdom, "the risks are clear: the more the conflict continues, the more they become, and the more complex and rescue will be costly. "

With AFP

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This is interesting!