Cairo: The Yemeni government has urged global action over a decaying oil tanker docked at a rebel-held port, warning its impact could be far worse than an explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital Beirut.
Yemen’s Iran-allied Al Houthi rebels have refused to give maintenance experts access to the vessel Safer loaded with about 1.1 million barrels of crude oil anchored for five years off a Yemeni Red Sea coast. Fears are mounting that the supertanker with its oil shipment has started to fall apart due to lack of maintenance.
Last month, the UN Security Council called on Al Houthis to allow inspection of the vessel.
Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al Eryani warned of a ”human, economic and environmental catastrophe” from potential sinking or explosion of the tanker.
“The huge explosion at the Port of Beirut and its aftermath of heavy human casualties and catastrophic damage to the Lebanese economy and environment remind us of the ticking bomb Safer,” he told the Yemeni news agency Saba.
Time running out
He accused Al Houthis of procrastination over allowing maintenance or unloading the tanker’s oil. “The international community should intervene, pressure the Iran-supported Al Houthi militias and act quickly to stop hazards of leaking, sinking or explosion of the tanker before time runs out,” Al Eryani added.
Earlier, the Yemeni government proposed unloading the vessel and using the value of the crude in financing the country’s rickety health sector and humanitarian services.
Al Houthis plunged Yemen into a devastating war in late 2014 when they unseated the internationally recognised government and seized parts of the impoverished country, including the capital Sana’a.
In March 2015, an Arab military coalition, co-led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, intervened in Yemen in response to a request from its government.