Risk of environmental disaster as Safer tanker decays in Yemen

The Safer oil tanker off Yemen’s Red Sea coast could trigger a national disaster if it explodes or spills its load. (File/Getty)
Short Url
Updated 30 March 2020

Risk of environmental disaster as Safer tanker decays in Yemen

  • UN ambassadors said an explosion or leak would close the port of Hodeidah for several months
  • A leak or explosion would also affect 1.7 million people working in the fishing industry and their families

RIYADH: Six Arab countries have filed a request to the UN to access the Safer oil tanker — filled with 138 million liters of Yemeni oil — to prevent an environmental disaster of drastic proportions.
The tanker’s decay in Hodeidah would cause an environmental disaster with dire economic and humanitarian consequences, threatening millions of residents in the Hodeidah governorate and the Red Sea riparian countries.
“It’s a great danger,” political analyst Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. The tanker has been lying in the port of Ras Isa for five years without any maintenance.
UN ambassadors from Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen said in the letter that an explosion or leak from the Safer would close the port of Hodeidah for several months. This would halt critical imports and “could increase fuel prices by 800 percent and double the price of goods and food, resulting in more economic challenges for the people of Yemen,” they said.

 

 A leak or explosion would also affect 1.7 million people working in the fishing industry and their families, the six countries said.
Al-Shehri said: “The tanker is used as a strong-arm point by the Houthis. Using it from time to time and reaping its goods but denying access to the UN.”
He added that one of the main reasons the Houthis have kept the international community and the UN at bay is “if the tanker was maintained and fixed it would affect their revenue. But the Houthis do not keep their word and have lied over and over again to their benefit.”
On July 18, 2019, Mark Lowcock, the UN’s undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the UN Security Council that its assessment team had been denied the necessary permits by Houthi rebels who control the area.
The tanker could face two potential hazardous scenarios.There could be an explosion or leak, which could lead to one of the worst environmental disasters the world has seen. The spill would be four times worse than the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez off the coast of Alaska in 1989, where the region still has not fully recovered. The aftermath of a fire or explosion would prevent the recovery of nearshore species in nearly 25 years, 1.7 million people would need food aid as the closure of the port can create shortages.
Fuel prices would increase by 800 percent and double the price of goods and food, shifting operations to an already busy port of Aden.

“The Houthis have nothing to lose, to them … this is just an oil spill in the sea.”

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

After the end of the Gulf War, the region suffered from damage caused by oil pollution in the waters off the Arabian Gulf. Marine life required many years to recover. In addition, it suffered from damage caused by oil fires to the health of many people in the region, after they were exposed to toxic fumes.
The second potential scenario would be a major fire. Some 3 million people in Hodeidah would be affected by toxic gases, four percent of productive agricultural lands in Yemen would be covered with dark clouds, destroying beans, fruits and vegetables that could cause an estimated loss of over $70 million. Humanitarian organizations would suspend their services in Hodeidah, cutting off services for 7 million people in need.
“The Houthis have nothing to lose, to them, in the end, this is just an oil is spill in the sea, they do not care about any dangers it poses whether on regional or international waters,” said Al-Shehri. “The Houthis want to blackmail the Yemenis, raise problems for them, steal the oil and sell it on the black market,” he said.
From a military perspective, the political analyst explained that at some point the tanker could be used as leverage. The spilt oil could be set ablaze to cause a devastating fire in the Red Sea, as revenge against the coalition.
“The international community is required to assume its responsibilities and exert maximum pressure on Houthi militias before the oil tanker causes the world’s biggest environmental and human disaster,” added Al-Shehri.
“If the international community does not interfere a severe backlash of two devastating scenarios will take place, an environmental disaster or major fire unleashed.
“The UN must take a firm, decisive and strong stance against the Houthis and stop appeasing them,” said Dr. Hamdan.

FASTFACTS

IN NUMBERS:

138 MILLION LITERS OF OIL in the deserted and neglected Safer oil tanker


Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

Updated 01 October 2020

Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

  • It will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools

JEDDAH: Violations of Saudi Arabia’s anti-sexual harassment laws could be punished by “naming and shaming” following a decision by the Kingdom’s Shoura Council to approve a defamation penalty.

The council voted in favor of the penalty during its session on Wednesday after previously rejecting the move in March this year.

Council member Latifah Al-Shaalan said the proposal to include the penalty was sent by the Saudi Cabinet.

Saudi lawyer Njood Al-Qassim said she agrees with the move, adding that it will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools.

“The penalty will be imposed according to a court ruling under the supervision of judges, and according to the gravity of the crime and its impact on society,” Al-Qassim told Arab News.

“This will be a deterrent against every harasser and molester,” she said.

Al-Qassim said that legal experts are required to explain the system and its penalties to the public.

“The Public Prosecution has clarified those that may be subject to punishment for harassment crimes, including the perpetrator, instigator and accessory to the crime, the one who agreed with the harasser, malicious report provider, and the person who filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit,” she added.

“The Public Prosecution also confirmed that attempted harassment requires half the penalty prescribed for the crime,” said Al-Qassim.

In May 2018, the Shoura Council and Cabinet approved a measure criminalizing sexual harassment under which offenders will be fined up to SR100,000 ($26,660) and jailed for a maximum of two years, depending on the severity of the crime. 

In the most severe cases, where the victims are children or disabled, for example, violators will face prison terms of up to five years and/or a maximum penalty of SR300,000.

Incidents that have been reported more than once will be subject to the maximum punishment. 

The law seeks to combat harassment crimes, particularly those targeting children under 18 and people with special needs.

Witnesses are also encouraged to report violations and their identities will remain confidential.

The law defines sexual harassment as words or actions that hint at sexuality toward one person from another, or that harms the body, honor or modesty of a person in any way. It takes into account harassment in public areas, workplaces, schools, care centers, orphanages, homes and on social media.

“The legislation aims at combating the crime of harassment, preventing it, applying punishment against perpetrators and protecting the victims in order to safeguard the individual’s privacy, dignity and personal freedom which are guaranteed by Islamic law and regulations,” a statement from the Shoura Council said.

Council member Eqbal Darandari, who supports the law, said on Twitter that the defamation penalty has proven its effectiveness in crimes in which a criminal exploits a person’s trust.

“The defamation of one person is a sufficient deterrent to the rest,” she said.

Social media activist Hanan Abdullah told Arab News the decision “is a great deterrent for every harasser since some fear for their personal and family’s reputation, and won’t be deterred except through fear of defamation.”

The move will protect women from “uneducated people who believe that whoever leaves her house deserves to be attacked and harassed,” she said.

“Anyone who is unhappy with this decision should look at their behavior.”