Disaster warning over ‘ticking time bomb’ Yemen tanker

The ship 'Safer,' used as a floating storage platform, is laden with some 1.1 million barrels of crude oil. (Twitter/@Yemen_PM)
Updated 28 August 2019

Disaster warning over ‘ticking time bomb’ Yemen tanker

  • The ship 'Safer' is laden with some 1.1 million barrels of crude oil
  • Houthi militants have blocked teams from reaching the ship to assess the damage

DUBAI: An abandoned oil tanker anchored off war-torn Yemen that is degrading along with its cargo could explode and cause an environmental disaster, experts said Wednesday as UN inspectors prepared to visit.
The ship “Safer,” used as a floating storage platform, is laden with some 1.1 million barrels of crude oil and has been stranded with no maintenance since early 2015, leaving it to deteriorate and potentially allowing explosive gases to build up.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday that a technical assessment team was waiting in nearby Djibouti preparing to board the Safer for a first-hand evaluation.
“We expect the assessment to start either later this week or early next week. There are obviously some technical preparations that need to be made,” he told reporters in New York.
The UN team’s visit has been delayed for months as the Houthi rebels who control Ras Issa port, where the ship is anchored, had refused to allow the mission in a dispute over claims for revenues from the oil worth millions.
But Dujarric said the United Nations has obtained permission from both Yemen’s internationally-recognized government and the rebels to examine the vessel.
The structure of the tanker has had no maintenance at all since the Yemen war started, he said.
Dujarric warned that an “environmental catastrophe” could result “if something were to happen to the tanker.”
The aim of the mission is to evaluate the condition of the vessel, perform an initial basic maintenance and assess what could be done technically to strengthen the ship’s structure.
The CEO of global maritime consultants I.R. Consilium described the situation as extremely alarming and characterised the ship as a ticking time bomb.
“The situation is serious and this matter will unfold into a crisis if urgent, decisive and effective action is not taken,” Ian Ralby told AFP.
A report issued by Consilium said the vessel “has turned into a massive bomb capable of explosion due to its contents and lack of maintenance.”
The risk of explosion increased by the day and if it happened, “it would create an environmental crisis four and a half times the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill,” it said.
The report was referring to the 1989 disaster when a tanker spilt some 260,000 barrels of oil into pristine Alaskan waters.
The United Nations has warned that if the Safer ruptures, it could block maritime trade through the Red Sea, which accounts for up to 10 percent of world trade.
It could also threaten the daily passage of some 5.5 million barrels of oil, contaminate drinking water and damage the marine environment across the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and parts of Gulf waters.
The head of Kuwait’s Greenline Environmental Group, a private NGO, warned that any catastrophe would likely hit waters of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt, Djibouti, Somalia and Eritrea.
“The environmental system of the Red Sea is at risk of catastrophe if the oil leaks into the sea... It would lead to a large-scale death of fish and birds,” Khaled Al-Hajjeri told AFP.

Leaked audio of Assad forces shooting elderly women in Idlib proves civilian killings: Report

Updated 11 min 22 sec ago

Leaked audio of Assad forces shooting elderly women in Idlib proves civilian killings: Report

  • Syrian regime also attacked Turkish military posts in violation of cease-fire deal

LONDON: Syrian regime forces deliberately killed elderly women in the northwestern region of Idlib, leaked recordings obtained by the UK’s Daily Telegraph have shown.

The audio recordings from Feb. 11 also suggest that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad attacked Turkish military posts in violation of a cease-fire deal.

The recordings captured a conversation between soldiers from the infamous elite Tiger Forces, the 25th Division, tracking a vehicle driving into the village of Mizanaz, to the west of Aleppo.

In the audio, intercepted by spotters at an observatory in the local area who picked up the soldiers’ frequency, one soldier can be heard saying: “There are women driving, their car is stuck in the mud and they’re headed to a battlefield.”



A second soldier said: “She looks elderly. It’s clear she’s coming to pack her belongings, then she’s leaving.”

Despite a clear identification of the women, one of the soldiers is heard saying: “I’m watching them. They’re about to enter a house. Yallah, I’m firing now.”

At that point, rapid machine gun fire can be heard on the tape. “Fire, fire, I’m observing for you,” the second soldier replies.

Local media reports from the time and date of the audio recording support the assertion that the women were killed in the attack.

Regime forces have used attacks on civilians as part of their strategy to clear rebel-held areas of the country, while attacking civilian institutions such as schools and hospitals. 

In September 2019, pro-Assad militants reportedly executed an elderly woman who refused to leave her home when it was confiscated after they recaptured the town of Khan Sheikhoun. 

According to figures from the Syrian Network for Human Rights, regime forces and their Russian allies are responsible for 90 percent of civilian deaths in the nine-year conflict, with three-quarters of those people victims of artillery or aerial shelling. The deliberate killing of non-combatants is a war crime under international law.

The Telegraph’s report also revealed recordings showing regime forces actively attacking Turkish posts in Idlib province that were set up as part of a de-escalation deal negotiated with Russia in 2018.

The attacks prompted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday to urge his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to “restrain” Assad’s advance in Idlib.