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KSA warns UN of oil spot in shipping lane near decaying Yemeni tanker

By Marwa Mahmoud

Saudi Arabia alerted UN Security Council on Wednesday that an “oil spot” had been seen in a shipping transit area 31 miles (50 km) west of a blighted tanker threatening to spill 1.1 million barrels of crude oil off the coast of Yemen.

The Safer tanker has been stranded off Yemen’s Red Sea oil terminal of Ras Issa for more than five years. The United Nations has warned that Safer could spill oil even more than 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.

Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi wrote in a letter to the 15-member body, which was checked by Reuters, that experts had found that “a pipeline connected to the vessel is suspected of being detached from the stabilisers holding it to the bottom and is now floating on the surface of the sea.”

UN has been waiting for formal authorization from Yemen’s Houthi movement to send a mission to the Safer tanker to conduct a technical assessment and whatever initial repairs might be feasible.

The Security Council and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have both called on the Houthis to grant access.

Al-Mouallimi wrote that the tanker “has reached a critical state of degradation, and that the situation is a serious threat to all Red Sea countries.”