UN sources: Yemen's Houthi rebels to allow access to abandoned tanker

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Vessel holding more than one million barrels of oil poses threat of environmental disaster

A photo provided by the maritime consultancy IR Consilium, taken in 2019, shows the external piping system and the hose failure that led to a spill from the FSO Safer oil tanker moored off Ras Issa port in Yemen. IR Consilium via AP

Photos of the FSO Safer taken in 2019 show the deterioration in the condition of the abandoned tanker, which has raised fears of an environmental disaster if it should explode or spill the more than one million barrels of oil on board. IR Consilium via AP

Internal decay inside the FSO Safer. Yemen's Houthi rebels have denied access to the tanker for inspection and maintenance. IR Consilium via AP

Corrosion in the boiler system of the FSO Safer. IR Consilium via AP

Oil leaks on the deck of the FSO tanker after a lack of basic maintenance for years. IR Consilium via AP

Corrosion on the control piping system inside the FSO Safer tanker. IR Consilium via AP

Corrosion in the internal piping system of the FSO Safer. IR Consilium via AP

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The National

July 12, 2020

July 12, 2020

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Yemen's Houthi rebels have agreed to provide the United Nations access to a stranded oil tanker that risks causing an environmental disaster off the coast of the war-divided country, according to two sources at the global body.

The UN last week said it was extremely concerned after water entered the engine room of the FSO Safer, a tanker holding 1.1 million barrels of crude oil that has been stranded off the Red Sea oil terminal of Ras Issa for over five years.

The sources told Reuters that the Iran-aligned rebels, who control the port, had sent a letter approving the deployment of a UN technical team to the tanker.

Effectively a floating storage platform, the 45-year-old vessel has had virtually no maintenance for five years since war broke out in the country after the Houthis have seized much of the north from the internationally recognised government.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday that prospects for a mission to the site had been revived, and that if an inspection team is allowed on board it will conduct light repairs and determine the next steps.

"We hope logistical arrangements will be quickly completed so this work can begin," he said.

The United Nations is discussing with Yemen's warring parties about arranging the sale of the crude and dividing proceeds between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and the rebels.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Safer tanker issue which has been mired in disputes over control of ports and revenues.

Yemen's oil and gas fields are located in the country's eastern and southern areas held by the government but output has collapsed since the conflict began. The rebels control Sanaa and most big urban centres including the main Red Sea port of Hodeidah, near Ras Issa.

The civil war has killed more than 100,000 people and caused what the UN describes as the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations recently launched virtual talks among the parties to agree a permanent ceasefire and confidence-building steps to restart peace negotiations. But discussions have been complicated by a surge in violence since late May when a temporary truce prompted by the coronavirus pandemic expired.

Updated: July 12, 2020 03:42 PM

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