Yemen: SAFER oil tanker

Aug 13 2020

Briefing highlights from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The tragedy in Beirut last week highlights the urgency of resolving the ongoing threat posed by the SAFER oil tanker off the coast of Yemen. This aging vessel is carrying more than 1 million barrels of oil and has had almost no maintenance since 2015.

Two months ago, seawater began leaking into the engine room, which could have destabilized and sunk the entire vessel, potentially releasing all the oil into the sea. A temporary fix was applied, but it is unclear how long this might last.

A major spill would be catastrophic for the environment and would destroy the livelihoods of coastal communities in Yemen. Most of the oil would likely wash up on Yemen’s west coast in areas controlled by the Houthi authorities.

A spill would also likely force Hudaydah port to close for weeks or months, which would cripple Yemen’s largest port. Because Yemen imports nearly all its food and everything else, this would have devastating consequences for millions of people – including communities located far from the coast.

On 14 July, the UN submitted an official request to the Houthi authorities to undertake an assessment and initial repair mission to the SAFER. The UN is in contact with the authorities on this and urges them to expedite the necessary procedures so this work can begin.

The main purpose of the mission will be to conduct a technical assessment and undertake whatever initial repairs might be feasible. Because the SAFER has gone so long without maintenance, its current status is not clear. The technical assessment will provide the scientific evidence we need to determine how best to resolve this challenge in the safest way possible. The UN is eager to work with the Houthi authorities and all relevant stakeholders to achieve this.


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