UN / YEMEN OIL TANKER

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03-Jun-2021 00:02:54
Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Inger Andersen told the Security Council that a spill or an explosion of the SAFER oil tanker off the coast of Yemen would “directly affect millions of people in a country that is already enduring the world's largest humanitarian emergency.” UNIFEED

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STORY: UN / YEMEN OIL TANKER
TRT: 2:54
SOURCE: UNIFEED
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ARABIC / ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 03 JUNE 2021, NEW YORK CITY

SHOTLIST:

FILE – NEW YORK CITY

1. Wide shot, UN headquarters exterior

03 JUNE 2021, NEW YORK CITY

2. SOUNDBITE (English) Inger Andersen, Director General, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP):
“The two possible scenarios are: one, a potential spill, or two, an explosion; would directly affect millions of people in a country that is already enduring the world's largest humanitarian emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated efforts to address the emergency. If there were to be a spill, entire ecosystems could be damaged, and it would take decades to clean up the spilled oil. Economic impacts, social and health impacts would also be dire.”
3. Wide shot, Security Council
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Inger Andersen, Director General, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP):
“But Mr President, we recognize that while all the efforts that are being undertaken by the UN agencies and partners, the risks remain, and the situation will deteriorate as delays mount. Even if the response activities were to be initiated immediately after an oil spill, it would take years for the ecosystems and the economies to recover.”
5. Wide shot, Security Council
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Reena Ghelani, Director for Operations and Advocacy, United Nations Office for the Coordination Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):
“The bottom line is that, so far, no mission has been allowed to deploy. That’s mostly because the Ansar Allah authorities, while always agreeing to a mission in principle, have been reluctant to provide the concrete assurances needed to proceed.”
7. Wide shot, Security Council
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Reena Ghelani, Director for Operations and Advocacy, United Nations Office for the Coordination Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):
“Ansar Allah at the time accepted the scope of work back in November. However, it now seems they are unhappy with this. The UN focus on assessment may seem frustrating, given that everyone wants to see the problem solved right away. And of course, the world would certainly welcome whatever path can move as quickly as possible towards a safe, sustainable solution. For a UN-led mission, that path starts with a comprehensive, impartial assessment. As we have said before, the UN has no preference on how the problem is ultimately solved so long as it’s done safely.”
9. Wide shot, Security Council
10. SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdullah Ali Fadhel Al-Saadi, Permanent Representative of Yemen to the United Nations:
“We look forward to this Council upholding its responsibilities and to take firm and deterrent steps to put real pressure on the Houthi militias to cease their manipulation of this issue, to stop using it as a bargaining chip and political blackmail, and to stop this unethical behaviour before the catastrophe occurs. Silence and the appeasement of the Houthi militias is no longer possible as time is running out. What is available and possible today will not be possible tomorrow.”
11. Wide shot, Security Council

STORYLINE:

Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Inger Andersen told the Security Council that a spill or an explosion of the SAFER oil tanker off the coast of Yemen would “directly affect millions of people in a country that is already enduring the world's largest humanitarian emergency.”

Addressing the Council today (03 Jun) via teleconference, Andersen said the risk of a massive oil leakage from the SAFER taker is growing every day. She added that, unfortunately, no significant changes have been reported since last year with risks to the environment and livelihoods remaining.

The UNEP chief said an agreement reached with Ansar Allah in November 2020 on the scope of the work of an assessment of the vessel sent some positive signals at the time. However political and logistical obstacles have impeded the implementation of the agreement and a planned mission has still been unable to deploy; as a result the exact condition of the vessel is unknown, Andersen said.

She added, “The two possible scenarios are: one, a potential spill, or two, an explosion; would directly affect millions of people in a country that is already enduring the world's largest humanitarian emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated efforts to address the emergency. If there were to be a spill, entire ecosystems could be damaged, and it would take decades to clean up the spilled oil. Economic impacts, social and health impacts would also be dire.”

Andersen warned that up to 670,000 people's livelihoods could be impacted by a spill as a result of the damage to fisheries, marine resources, coastal industries and food imports. She said the forced closure of Salif and Hudaidah ports could limit fuel and food imports for 2 to 3 weeks, and, in the event of a fire or an explosion, around 4.8 million people in Yemen and 350,000 in Saudi Arabia could be exposed to harmful levels of pollution within 24 to 36 hours.

The head of UNEP reminded Council members that the Red Sea is one of the planet's most important repositories of biodiversity. She said an oil spill would also negatively impact neighbouring Red Sea countries and shipping along one of the busiest commercial routes in the world.

Andersen said the UN system is working to support readiness, contingency and response planning in case of an oil spill and made some progress especially in setting up coordination mechanisms. However, she recognized that “the risks remain, and the situation will deteriorate as delays mount.” She said, “Even if the response activities were to be initiated immediately after an oil spill, it would take years for the ecosystems and the economies to recover.”

The Executive Director said much more needs to be done in terms of preparedness and contingency planning. She urged international partners to intensify efforts to address the situation.

Speaking on behalf of UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, Reena Ghelani said her office’s assessment of the situation has not changed adding that the “bottom line is that, so far, no mission has been allowed to deploy.” She said, “That’s mostly because the Ansar Allah authorities, while always agreeing to a mission in principle, have been reluctant to provide the concrete assurances needed to proceed.”

The Director for Operations and Advocacy at the UN humanitarian office (OCHA) said the UN wrote to Ansar Allah two months ago to clarify exactly what is needed for the mission to deploy, and there have been extensive discussions over the past ten day to try to bridge the remaining gaps; but so far these efforts have not succeeded.

She noted that the main sticking point seems to be what, exactly, the UN mission will do and – more specifically – why the United Nations cannot agree more in terms of repairs.

Ghelani said Ansar Allah had accepted the scope of the assessment mission’s work in November, “however, it now seems they are unhappy with this.”

The OCHA official said the SAFER vessel is a dangerous site and has received essentially no maintenance for more than six years. She said the UN has never been allowed to visit the site and does not know exactly what the conditions are like onboard, which makes it impossible to say in advance exactly what activities can safely be performed.

Ghelani said, “The UN focus on assessment may seem frustrating, given that everyone wants to see the problem solved right away. And of course, the world would certainly welcome whatever path can move as quickly as possible towards a safe, sustainable solution. For a UN-led mission, that path starts with a comprehensive, impartial assessment. As we have said before, the UN has no preference on how the problem is ultimately solved so long as it’s done safely.”

The OCHA official said the UN expert team remains ready to deploy, as they have been for the last two years. She hoped that things will start moving much faster and reminded Council members that it would still take several weeks for the UN to rent the mission vessels, ship all the specialized equipment, deploy the experts and sail to the SAFER from Djibouti.

Yemeni ambassador Abdullah Al-Saadi said nothing has been accomplished in the past year since Security Council held a special meeting on the tanker, rather the vessel's situation has deteriorated, and the risks are highly than ever before. He said the Houthis were not content with just stalling and undermining efforts. He said the group recently accused the UN of plundering the funds allocated for the assessment and repair of the tanker.

Al-Saadi called on the Council to take firm action to avoid an environmental catastrophe and to send a clear message to the Houthis. He said, “We look forward to this Council upholding its responsibilities and to take firm and deterrent steps to put real pressure on the Houthi militias to cease their manipulation of this issue, to stop using it as a bargaining chip and political blackmail, and to stop this unethical behaviour before the catastrophe occurs. Silence and the appeasement of the Houthi militias is no longer possible as time is running out. What is available and possible today will not be possible tomorrow.”

The Yemeni ambassador expressed his government’s support for a proposal by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffith to resolve the issue which would allow for the tanker to be assessed and repaired, and for the revenue from the oil in the tanker to be used to pay civil servants under UN supervision.
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