Despite many false dawns, talks with Houthi rebels in Yemen were continuing in an attempt to enable experts to access FSO Safer (IMO 7376472) in order to assess its condition and make emergency repairs, the UN said on March 10th.
The FSO Safer has been abandoned near the western port of Hodeidah since 2015, with 1.1m barrels of crude on board. It was feared that a deterioration in the hull, said to be as little as 10mm thick in places, could lead to a catastrophic failure, leading to disastrous environmental and humanitarian consequences. Essential work is also necessary to reduce the level of explosive gases in its storage tanks.
In November 2020 the Houthis confirmed they had agreed to a mission to access the FSO Safer. The UN initially planned the mission for late January or early February.
However, the Houthis subsequently issued a new set of demands relating to “logistics and security arrangements”. This has led to further delays.
Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said that it was hoped that these discussions could be concluded quickly, thus finalizing a concrete deployment timeline. Guterres and the Security Council have repeatedly pleaded with the Houthis in Yemen to allow access to the tanker for assessment and repairs’
The UN’s latest announcement came a couple of days after US President Biden suspended the US designation of the Houthis as a terrorist group, until at least February 26th.