UN officials call for access to abandoned tanker off Yemen coast

By IANS | Published: June 4, 2021 01:00 PM2021-06-04T13:00:04+5:302021-06-04T13:15:26+5:30

United Nations, June 4 UN officials have called for access to the long-abandoned fuel tanker off Yemen's coast ...

UN officials call for access to abandoned tanker off Yemen coast | UN officials call for access to abandoned tanker off Yemen coast

UN officials call for access to abandoned tanker off Yemen coast

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United Nations, June 4 UN officials have called for access to the long-abandoned fuel tanker off Yemen's coast amid growing fears of a catastrophic oil spill.

Political and logistical gridlocks in assessing the risk of an oil spill or explosion in the Red Sea are increasing the likelihood of a new humanitarian and environmental crisis in Yemen and beyond, the Security Council heard on Thursday from high-level officials reporting on the tanker.

Thursday's meeting, requested by the UK, came after Houthi rebels said an agreement to allow a UN mission to inspect the tanker had "reached a dead end".

The 45-year-old fuel vessel, FSO Safer, has 1.1 million barrels of crude on board and has been abandoned near Yemen's western port of Hodeidah since 2015.

Addressing the 15-member Council, Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, expressed regret about the lack of progress over the past year in assessing the risk of a massive oil leak or explosion.

Noting the relevance of the Red Sea's biodiversity, she said millions of people could be exposed to harmful pollution if an explosion were to occur onboard, with severe health impacts for vulnerable populations.

Additionally, an oil spill would have negative effects on the lives of people already going through the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, she added.

It could severely restrict the movement of vessels through the Red Sea, disrupting one of the busiest commercial routes in the world and would pose devastating consequences for the wealth of species found in the region.

Also briefing the Council was Reena Ghelani, director for operations and advocacy at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who said that, over the past two years, Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock briefed the Council 23 times on the tanker, including in a meeting dedicated to the issue in July 2020.

Progress, however, has been much slower than anyone would have wanted and no mission has been able to deploy, mainly because the Houthi militia, while agreeing in principle to such an operation, are reluctant to provide assurances that it can proceed.

Offering a national perspective, Abdullah Ali Fadhel al-Saadi, Permanent representative of Yemen to the UN, said nothing has been achieved to remedy the situation, declaring: "The humanitarian risks that would result from a possible disaster are increasing."

Noting that Houthi militias had initially agreed to cooperate in efforts to assess the risks, he said they have continually undermined the process.

As a result, Yemen is on the brink of a humanitarian and environmental crisis.

"We must put an end to this catastrophe," he stressed, noting that, since 2017, Yemen has issued warnings about the dangers posed by the vessel.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor

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