According to a Houthi spokesman, Yemen’s Houthi movement has reached an agreement with the United Nations to cope with a rotting oil ship that threatens to leak 1.1 million barrels of crude oil off the war-torn country’s coast.
Last month, UN assistance director Martin Griffiths stated that an agreement in principle had been reached to transfer the oil from the tanker Safer to another vessel. He didn’t provide a timetable.
The Safer has been stranded for more than six years off the coast of Yemen’s Red Sea oil port at Ras Issa, and U.N. authorities have warned that it might spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska.
“A memorandum of agreement for the Safer tanker has been signed with the United Nations,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, stated late Saturday on Twitter.
The Houthis, who are fighting Yemen’s internationally recognised government, have control of the mooring area and the national oil company that owns the tanker.
A contract had already been negotiated for a technical U.N. team to evaluate the ageing vessel, which was built in 1976, and make whatever repairs were possible, but final logistical plans never materialised.
Since 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen against the Iran-aligned Houthis after they toppled the internationally recognised government from Sanaa, no maintenance activities have been carried out on the Safer.
Off the coast of Yemen, the coalition has control of the high seas.