The deadly explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut highlights the need to urgently act on the oil-laden tanker abandoned off the Yemeni coast, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a press briefing on Monday.
“The tragedy that we saw in Beirut last week clearly underscores the urgency of resolving the ongoing threat posed by the Safer oil tanker, which is anchored off the coast of Yemen,” Dujarric said. “A major spill will be catastrophic for the environment, and would destroy livelihoods of coastal communities in Yemen.”
The decaying tanker, which is loaded with 1 million barrels of crude oil, has not seen any adequate maintenance since 2015. After seawater entered the engine compartment of the vessel in May, a temporary fix was applied.
However, the spokesman said, the damage could potentially destabilize the entire tanker and release all of the oil into the Red Sea.
The spill would directly impact as many as 1.6 million people, causing catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects to the area around the port of Al-Hudaydah, which is vital for millions of Yemenis who depend on humanitarian aid and commercial imports, according to the United Nations.