KSrelief urges global community to act on Safer oil tanker issue

A still from a video released by the Yemeni government to illustrate the risks from a potential oil tanker spill, uploaded July 14, 2019. Photo by Twitter/@Yemen_PM.

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief) called on the United Nations and wider international community to take “urgent and immediate action” to contain the risk of the explosion or sinking of the Safer oil tanker, the center said in a press release on Monday.

The tanker, anchored at a distance of 4.8 nautical miles off Ras Isa Port in the Al Hudaydah Governorate, is carrying more than a million and a half barrels of crude oil. It is at risk of creating a major oil spill in the Red Sea; an event which would cause a major environmental disaster in Yemen and other countries with Red Sea coastlines.

Thus far, the Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen who control the area; where the tanker is located, ignored all international pleas and warnings about the potentially catastrophic oil spill. They repeatedly refused either to perform necessary maintenance on the tanker themselves; or to allow a team of international experts to access it and take steps to avoid disaster.

Critical state of degradation

KSrelief noted in a recent statement that the condition of the Safer oil tanker reached a critical state of degradation. The situation is also a threat to all Red Sea countries, particularly Yemen.

The center added that the aging tanker is at risk of exploding at any time. This is due to the ongoing lack of the performance of critical maintenance since the Houthi coup. In addition to the real possibility of an imminent explosion; the overall deterioration of the tanker’s pipe system and other equipment and the disruption of its firefighting system make the condition of the tanker even more precarious, and more dangerous.

The degradation of the tanker’s pipes and other infrastructure, if left unaddressed, will cause inert gases and crude oil to leak; spilling the huge cargo of crude oil directly into the Red Sea; from there, it will spread into the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and into the Arabian Sea.

Not only will large-scale destruction of the marine environment result in the isolation of more than 115 Red Sea islands; such a catastrophic spill would also effectively end the ability of island residents to live and work there.

Comprehensive maintenance

The KSrelief statement stressed the urgent need for comprehensive maintenance of the tanker; immediate intervention to oblige the militias to allow UN technical team to carry out this maintenance. This is also to enable technical and engineering teams to unload the crude oil as soon as possible; in an environmentally acceptable manner.

KSrelief also called upon the international humanitarian community; including UN organizations and agencies, to take a stand against this serious environmental threat to Red Sea coastal populations. This is in order to save lives and livelihoods. Besides, avoiding the potential disruption of aid delivery to Yemen by seal; which is an important method for getting aid to many parts of the country.