JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has called for strong and decisive international efforts to deal with the global threats posed by a decaying oil tanker moored off Yemen’s Red Sea coast.
During a virtual meeting on Wednesday of the UN Security Council to discuss the stranded FSO Safer vessel, which is loaded with more than 1 million barrels of crude oil, the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, highlighted the “grave risks” the ship presented.
The 45-year-old tanker has been anchored about 60 km north of Hodeidah since the start of Yemen’s civil war five years ago. Iran-backed Houthi rebels agreed on Sunday to allow a UN inspection team access to the ship for a maintenance check.
Al-Mouallimi said: “I would like to express our appreciation for convening this session to discuss the hazardous situation of the tanker and the dangers it is posing to the environment and maritime navigation in the Red Sea.
“The grave risks associated with this floating oil tanker threaten to cause harm to the Southern Red Sea and to the world at large as it is situated in the proximity of Bab Al-Mandab (Strait), through which vital international maritime navigation passes through between Asia and Europe.
“This dangerous situation must not be left unaddressed, and the Security Council bears primary responsibility for securing the safety and security of the area,” he added.
The envoy told delegates that an oil spill from the FSO Safer could have the potential to be worse than the devastating 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.
He pointed out that loss of oil from the ship could also result in the closing of the port of Hodeidah for months, leading to severe shortages in the supply of fuel and other essentials to the people of Yemen, and severe long-term damage to the region’s fishing industry.
Marine life, the environment, and Saudi shores would also be seriously and adversely affected, he added, and toxic gases and black clouds from any major spillage would damage agricultural land in vast areas of Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
“The Security Council has already asserted the need to confront the risks associated with this situation and warned against the catastrophic consequences that would result if this situation remains unresolved. The Security Council did so in its resolution 2511 (2020) and its press statement issued on June 29, 2020,” said Al-Mouallimi.
“We took notice of the announcement made recently by the spokesperson of the UN secretary-general that the Houthi rebels have agreed to allow access to the tanker.
“We remain suspicious of the Houthis plans and intentions, and request that the Security Council must remain vigilante and should stand ready to declare strong and decisive measures to deal with this situation and eliminate the risks posed by it.”
The ambassador said that the Kingdom stood ready to take all necessary steps that the Security Council may deem fit to handle the situation.
“The council must not allow such reckless and irresponsible behavior to stand. The council must ensure that a political solution for the conflict in Yemen is found based on UN Security Council Resolution 2216, the GCC initiative, and the outcome of the National Dialogue Conference, acknowledged by the international community as the elements of international legitimacy.”