UN Praises ‘Positive’ Talks With Yemen Sides On Ageing Oil Tanker

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for war-torn Yemen said he held constructive talks with government officials and Huthi rebels over dealing with the threat posed by a rusting oil tanker abandoned offshore.

Experts warn of the risk of a major environmental disaster posed by the 45-year-old FSO Safer, which lacks both power and a functioning fire fighting system while volatile gases are thought to be building up inside.

“The risk of imminent catastrophe is very real,” stressed the UN’s David Gressly in a statement Saturday. “We need to translate the good will being shown by all interlocutors into action as soon as possible.”

But he praised talks he held last week with all sides in the Yemen conflict on a “UN-coordinated proposal to mitigate the threat”.

“In our very positive discussions, the government officials confirmed that they support the UN-coordinated proposal to shift the million barrels of oil onboard the vessel to another ship,” said Gressly.

READ ALSO: Delta Oil Vessel Explosion: One Crew Member Dead, Three Others Found Alive

“I also held very constructive discussions” with Huthi rebels, he said, adding that “they also agreed in principle on how to move forward with the UN-coordinated proposal”.

Gressly said he was also having talks with countries interested in backing the project, according to the statement, but did not elaborate on that issue.

Environmental group Greenpeace last week warned that the Safer, moored for years off Yemen’s western port of Hodeida “with its toxic cargo of crude oil,” posed a “grave threat” to millions in the impoverished country.

Greenpeace said an oil spill would prevent access to Yemen’s main ports of Hodeida and Salif, affecting food aid supplies for up to 8.4 million people.

It also said that desalination plants on the coast could be affected, which would interrupt the drinking water supply for about 10 million people.

Yemeni fisheries would likely shut down and ecosystems in the Red Sea would be destroyed, Greenpeace added, with the impact possibly reaching Djibouti, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia.

The Huthis — who have been battling the government since 2014 — have insisted the UN team conducts maintenance work, but the world body says it must be allowed to assess the site first before carrying out any work.

Yemen’s grinding conflict has killed hundred of thousands directly or indirectly and left millions on the brink of famine, according to the UN.

‘Oil Tanker Ablaze Off China Risks Exploding’

 

This frame grab taken from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV on January 8, 2018 shows smoke and flames coming from a burning oil tanker at sea off the coast of eastern China. CCTV/AFP

 

An Iranian oil tanker ablaze off China’s east coast was at risk of exploding or sinking on Monday, as fears grew for 32 missing sailors amid warnings of a potential environmental disaster.

The huge fire was still raging Monday morning around the stricken vessel, which had been carrying 136,000 tonnes of light crude oil, some 36 hours after it collided with a cargo ship.

But China’s English-language state broadcaster CGTN later posted a video on Twitter showing the fire seemingly under control as a second vessel sprayed it with water.

Earlier the transport ministry said rescuers trying to locate the crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis were being beaten back by toxic clouds.

The Panamanian-flagged 274-metre (899-foot) tanker Sanchi is “in danger of exploding or sinking”, the ministry said.

Rescuers had recovered one unidentified body as of Monday afternoon, said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang.

“Conditions… are not that favourable for search and rescue work,” he said, adding that “we are also investigating how to prevent any secondary disaster.”

The body was found three or four miles from the tanker and “cannot be easily identified” even though the victim had a fire safety vest, Alireza Irvash, from Iran’s consulate in Shanghai, told Iranian state broadcaster IRIB.

The accident happened on Saturday evening 160 nautical miles east of the city.

The tanker, operated by Iran’s Glory Shipping, was heading to South Korea when it collided with a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, the CF Crystal, carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain.

Ten government vessels and “many fishing ships” were helping with the ongoing rescue and clean up effort, the transport ministry said, adding that a South Korean coastguard ship was also on the scene.

A US Navy aircraft took part in the search on Sunday, scouring a wide area before returning to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

Environmental fears

As Chinese authorities raced to contain the ship’s leaking oil, experts expressed fears the accident could create an environmental disaster.

Greenpeace said in a statement it was “concerned about the potential environmental damage that could be caused by the 1 million barrels of crude oil on board”.

If all of the Sanchi’s cargo spills, it would be the biggest oil slick from a ship for decades.

By comparison, in the sixth-worst spill since the 1960s, the Odyssey dumped 132,000 tonnes some 700 nautical miles off Canada’s Nova Scotia in 1988, according to figures from the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation website.

“It’s very possible this will kill off marine life across a wide area,” Wei Xianghua, an environmental expert at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, told AFP of the latest threat.

Even under a best-case scenario, it would take a “long time” for the area to get back to normal, Wei added.

“At present, the only thing to be done is make the best effort to not allow the oil to spread to other places.”

China had two vessels working to contain the spill early Monday morning, the transport ministry said.

Iran’s Petroleum Ministry said the tanker belongs to the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and was delivering its cargo to South Korea’s Hanwha Total. The ship and its cargo were insured, a statement said.

It was the second accident in less than two years involving a tanker owned by the NITC. In August 2016 an Iranian supertanker and a container ship collided in the Singapore Strait, causing damage to both vessels but no injuries or pollution.

Saturday’s collision was the latest in a series of fatal maritime accidents in East Asia in recent years.

Last October, 13 crew on a Chinese fishing boat were killed after their vessel collided with a Hong Kong oil tanker off Japan’s west coast.

US Navy vessels have also been involved in some accidents, including a collision between the USS John. S. McCain and a tanker off Singapore last August that killed 10 sailors.

AFP

Malaysia Oil Tanker ‘Not Hijacked’- Officials

malaysia, indonesia, oil tanker, MT Vier HarmoniAccording to officials in Malaysia and Indonesia, a Malaysian oil tanker has not been hijacked as earlier reported, but taken to Indonesia by its own crew.

The MT Vier Harmoni, carrying 900,000 litres of diesel, is being searched in Batam Island, Indonesia.

Indonesian Navy spokesman, Edi Sucipto told BBC that the confusion was due to an “internal management problem”. Malaysia also said it was an “internal dispute”.

Earlier, reports said that the Malaysian oil tanker carrying 900,000 litres of diesel had been hijacked and taken to Indonesian waters.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said the Vier Harmoni was believed to have been taken in waters off Kuantan port.

The agency’s director tweeted that the ship was believed to be off the Indonesian Island of Batam.

Its cargo is reportedly worth about 1.57m ringgit ($392,795; £300,000).

The head of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said the dispute between the operator and the crew had been resolved but he did not outline what had happened to the ship’s oil cargo, or whether it would sail back to Malaysia.