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An abandoned oil tanker in the Red Sea loaded with more than 1 million barrels of crude oil may explode or rupture, causing a major environmental and humanitarian disaster.

The U.N. Security Council has highlighted the risks posed by the FSO Safer tanker, which is moored off the coast of Yemen. The tanker is loaded with 1.1 million barrels of crude oil.

The Security Council told Fox News that it will be meeting to discuss the tanker at 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

NASA IMAGES REVEAL SHOCKING SCALE OF ARAL SEA DISASTER

Houthi rebels, who control the area where the ship is moored, have denied U.N. inspectors access to the vessel. But in comments obtained by AP, last week U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, “The local authorities recently signaled they would approve a U.N. mission to the site.”

Maxar Satellite image of the FSO Safer tanker moored off Ras Issa port, in Yemen, on June 17, 2020.
(Satellite image (c) 2020 Maxar Technologies.)

“The members of the Security Council expressed deep alarm at the growing risk that the Safer oil tanker could rupture or explode, causing an environmental, economic, and humanitarian catastrophe for Yemen and its neighbors,” the Security Council said, in a statement released on June 29. “They underscored the need for the Houthis to immediately grant unconditional access for United Nations technical experts to assess the tanker’s condition, conduct any possible urgent repairs, and make recommendations for the safe extraction of the oil, ensuring close cooperation with the United Nations.”

Internal documents obtained by The Associated Press last month show that seawater has entered the engine compartment of the tanker, which hasn’t been maintained for over five years, causing damage to the pipelines and increasing the risk of sinking. Rust has covered parts of the tanker, and the inert gas that prevents the tanks from gathering inflammable gases has leaked out.

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According to the AP’s June 26 report, experts say maintenance is no longer possible because the damage to the ship is irreversible.

Citing data from Yemen’s Central Statistical Organisation and the country’s Environmental Protection Authority, Yemeni environmental website Holm Akhdar warns that oil spill damage from the SFO Safer could result in 115 Yemeni islands losing their biodiversity. Holm Akhdar also warns that an environmental disaster could result in 126,000 Yemeni fishermen losing their source of income.

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Some 850,000 tons of fish stocks lie in the Yemeni waters of the Red Sea, Holm Akhdar said, and 969 species of fish are endangered by the decaying tanker. Some 300 species of coral reefs are also in danger.

The floating tanker is a Japanese-made vessel built in the 1970s and sold to the Yemeni government in the 1980s to store up to 3 million barrels pumped from oil fields in Marib, a province in eastern Yemen before it was exported. The ship is 1,181 feet long with 34 storage tanks.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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