FSO Safer Yemen

The IMO Can’t Prevent This Massive Oil Tanker From Spilling

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October 15, 2020

permanently anchored off Yemen’s Red Sea coast, west of Hodeida. (Handout)

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By Aziz El Yaakoubi (Reuters) – A United Nations team will have to wait several weeks to access a deteriorating FSO tanker off Yemen’s shore that is threatening to spill 1.1 million barrels of crude oil in the Red Sea, two U.N. sources told Reuters.

The United Nations has warned that the Safer FSO, stranded since 2015, could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster near Alaska, but access to the vessel has been complicated by the war in Yemen.

Yemen’s Houthi movement, which controls the area where the tanker is moored and the national oil firm that owns it, agreed in July to allow a technical team to assess the ship and conduct whatever repairs may be feasible.

But the two sources said that it could take another seven weeks to finalize details of the agreement and logistics, with the coronavirus pandemic further complicating planning.

The deal includes the eventual sale of the oil on board with proceeds divided between Houthi authorities and Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which the movement ousted from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.

Some diplomats say there are still doubts about the mission as Houthi officials had last year reneged on granting access.

The Safer, built-in 1974, is moored off the Ras Issa oil terminal, 60 km (40 miles) north of the port of Hodeidah.

The area is held by the Houthis, but the high seas are controlled by a Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the movement and has prevented it from selling oil.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020.

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