LONDON: The UN on Monday called a new Houthi demand for an agreement before allowing access to decaying oil tanker Safer for light maintenance “disappointing.”
FSO Safer has been moored in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, near the Ras Isa oil terminal, for more than five years.
“The big point of dispute really is that they (the Houthis) want an agreement in advance to perform light maintenance. And they want the light maintenance activities to be mentioned in the (November 2020) mission plan,” a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Arab News.
“We’re continuing to negotiate…We can’t provide those advanced guarantees (because of) the lack of safety onboard the ship….If it is safe, we are definitely willing to do light maintenance activities. First, we need to make sure it is safe,” UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said.
Haq told reporters in New York that the “The Safer is a very dangerous site and advanced guarantees before verifying conditions on board are not possible.”
“That is why the November 2020 agreement (between the UN and the Houthis) explicitly conditions the light maintenance activities on the safety environment we find on board,” he explained.
The UN remains eager to help but a safety assessment is necessary to carrying out “some light maintenance that we hope will buy more time for a longer term solution,” Haq added.
“We also remain open-minded regarding any other safe and quick solutions to the problem,” he said.
The tanker’s structure, equipment and operating systems are deteriorating, leaving the tanker at risk of springing a leak, exploding or catching fire.
With 48 million gallons of oil on board, the UN warns a potential leak would be four times bigger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska, considered the world’s worst oil spill in terms of environmental damage.