Yemeni and international voices increasingly warn against the risks of oil leak from the floating storage and offloading (FSO) facility Safer anchored off the Yemeni western port of Ras Isa without repairs for five years.
Despite the warnings, the Yemeni official government and Houthis have traded blames for potential oil outflow and resultant environment disaster, with each seeking to appropriate the 1.14 million barrels of crude stored inside the tanker.
While their officials dub the FSO as a time bomb, whose blast could cause the worst environment disaster, reality says none of the Yemeni rivals does bother about the risk, as each sticks to its own stance in an attempt to grasp and sell the cargo or – if not – let the tanker sink.
Last week, a pipe of the reservoir had reportedly a hole and let seawater into engine chamber of Safer that has not been repaired since 2014, with corrosion making it at risk of imminent explosion.
If large deal of oil crude leaked from the tanker, a gross loss could inflict the maritime species and environment throughout and beyond the Red Sea, leading to a dire decline in fishery production on which millions of Yemenis live.
Safer contains about 150,000 tons of crude that, in case of leakage, could destroy the Red Sea and its coasts, the British envoy to Yemen has tweeted, citing the grave environment damages caused by a leak of 20,000 tons of crude in Siberia.
The Houthis should allow access for the UN to tackle the situation before it is too late, Ambassador Michael Aron added.
Last May, the US embassy in Yemen warned of Safer's deteriorating condition that could lead to a disastrous leakage in the Red Sea.
The Houthis have prevented international experts from assessing the tanker throughout last period, the US mission added in a statement, calling on the group to allow for international check and repair for Safer.
The Yemeni official government has called the UN and international community to pressure the Houthi group into allowing an immediate access for the UN team, without delay or preconditions, to check and discharge the oil stored in the FSO.
On their part, the Houthis ask the UN to let them sell the crude inside the facility and benefit from the return in constructing oil reservoirs, according to the group-run oil ministry that accused the Saudi-led coalition of rejecting the tanker be discharged or fixed and denying access to the UN technical team tasked with repairs.
Safer is a giant oil tanker that was made in Japan in 1976 and first used by the Yemeni authorities in 1986, before being taken to South Korea to be turned into an FSO facility for Marib oil, with total storage capacity of 3 million barrels.