The story of a leaky oil tanker stranded off the coast of Yemen is, in part, the story of the country’s civil war. There are about a million gallons of oil stored in this tanker, which has not been operational since 2015. That is when Yemen’s civil war escalated into an international conflict pitting Houthi rebels who overthrew the government against an international coalition lead by Saudi Arabia.
Since then, the condition of this old oil tanker has deteriorated and is threatening to cause what would be the world’s worst-ever oil spill. The environmental, economic and humanitarian damage throughout the Red Sea would be immense. Meanwhile, the Houthi rebels control access to this tanker and so far, they have not permitted UN experts or an international team to inspect the tanker, nor take steps to safely remove the oil from it.
On the line to discuss is Gerry Simpson, associate crisis and conflict director at Human Rights Watch. He has been following the situation with the tanker closely and We kick off discussing the history of this tanker before having a broader conversation about the possible damage that a leak may inflict and its broader relationship to the conflict in Yemen.
The situation with the tanker is something that has been on the radar of the UN Security Council, and even US Congress. The damage from an oil spill would be at a scale that is hard to comprehend.
It’s a crisis waiting to happen and so far there has been very little progress in securing the tanker.