The Safer oil tanker is loaded with more than a million barrels of crude oil and experts have warned of an environmental catastrophe if the vessel breaks apart. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: The Council of Arab Ministers in charge of environment called for immediate practical measures to avoid a looming environmental catastrophe in the Red Sea in the shape of an oil spill from Safer oil tanker.

At the end of an emergency meeting held virtually Monday, Arab Ministers called on Arab countries, the international community and the UN’s Special Envoy to Yemen to ramp up pressure on Houthi militia to allow the UN’s technical team access the tanker, repair and unload oil before it’s too late.

The Ministers called on the UN Environment Program and International Marine Organisation (IMO) to keep espousing the efforts of the Regional Commission for Perserving the Environment of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden by devising an emergency action plan to deal with the negative impacts in the event of an oil spill from the Safer oil tanker.

The vessel, which is carrying a cargo of 1.1 million barrels of oil, has been moored off the coast of Ras Issa, in Yemen’s Hodeidah province, since 2015.

The eroding tanker is in desperate need of repair. Water has already started to leak into its engine room, prompting UN officials to warn of a major impending environmental disaster in the Red Sea, as well as the potential risk of a massive explosion caused by the buildup of gases in the storage tanks.

The Iran-backed Houthi militias that control Hodeidah have been obstructing UN efforts to send maintenance teams to the tanker, heedless of the crisis and looming danger.