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A floating oil tanker that hasn’t been maintained since the conflict in Yemen erupted in 2015 is currently under the control of the Houthi rebels, who are preventing a United Nations team from assessing the danger from the tanker which has been described as “a floating bomb” that could explode after sitting unattended for so long.
The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels have been fighting a Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen since 2015, and the Houthis have claimed over these years that they have targeted and hit oil facilities of Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia.
The floating storage and offloading (FSO) unit SAFER has been sitting off Yemen’s coast since early 2015 and hasn’t been maintained or attended since then. Experts say that the oil in tanker now is at danger of exploding, potentially leading to an environmental disaster and further aggravating what is already the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
The Houthis, however, are blocking access to the oil tanker, demanding a share of the revenues from the potential sale of some 1 million barrels of oil that the tanker still contains, The National reports.
Last week, the leader of the Houthi uprising in Yemen, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, asked the United Nations to sell the cargo of crude to generate revenues that would be used for the purchase of fuel and salaries for public sector employees.
Various experts and organizations have been warning for months that the floating oil tanker is at danger of exploding.
Last month, the Atlantic Council said in a report that the “massive floating bomb in the Red Sea needs urgent attention” and that despite the several requests for UN assistance by Yemeni authorities, “the bomb remains afloat, untended and under the control of the Houthis.”
“Given that the Houthis have already attempted to blow up several oil tankers in transit through the Bab al-Mandeb and Red Sea, it may well be the case that they view this precarious situation as a tactical and strategic advantage worth maintaining,” the authors Ian Ralby, David Soud, and Rohini Ralby wrote in April.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.