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MAKING the “Safer” safer, is delayed yet again

FSO Safer is a rusting and slowly corroding Yemeni oil tanker at risk of spilling 1 million barrels of oil into the Red Sea. That is four times the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

The UN describes the Safer as a floating timebomb because she is moored off the Yemeni coast close to the port of Hodeida the area around the port has seen some of the heaviest fighting between the Houthi, a Shia rebel group and a Saudi led coalition in Yemen. The port of Hodeida which is in the control of the Houthi, is also vital to the UN humanitarian aid to the Yemeni population.

Should the Safer start to leak or explode it would be a disaster for the Red Sea an important shipping lane from the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal.

Built in 1976 and sold in 1988 to the Yemeni government, the Safer has been used as a floating
oil storage and offloading vessel at the oil terminal of Ras Issa which is at the end of 450 km pipeline (see map) from the Marib oilfield to the Yemeni coast. The Safer has been an abandoned hulk since 2015 when all regular maintenance work ceased due to local fighting. Salt water is eating away at the hull and storage tanks. Valves and pipes are seen to be leaking.

The result is a disaster slowly waiting to happen and perhaps equal in its potential severity to the recent explosion in Beirut.

The UN have been negotiating with the Houthi and have over $3.5 million allocated to removing the oil from the decaying tanker.

The Trump administration decision to declare the Houthi a ‘foreign terrorist organisation’ has hampered the UN efforts and stalled negotiations with the major international companies with the skill and resources to empty the Safer’s cargo of oil. Those companies will not risk big penalties under US law by engaging in any way with the Houthi. Another example of US control of the world monetary system – ‘the dictatorship of the dollar’.

So, the Safer is no safer.

March 7 2021