“The tanker is owned by the government of Yemen, but it is in Houthi rebel waters. They’ve been fighting for seven years. This makes the tanker part of the complex problem,” says the Dutch ambassador in Yemen, Peter Derrek Hof in the Netherlands NOS Radio 1 News† He wants to do something about the situation.
According to Hof, it is very dangerous to leave the tanker there any longer. “It’s ship is well past its best-before date. No maintenance has been done for more than seven years. It could rupture, explode or sink at any moment,” he explains. If that happens, it would lead to a huge disaster. “That disaster not only destroys the ecosystem in the Red Sea, but it also threatens a hundred thousand Yemenis in their very existence.”
Many people in the region depend on fishing. If the tanker ruptures and oil leaks, that industry will disappear. “It will therefore become virtually impossible to provide humanitarian aid.” Many people depend on that too. “Moreover, it is located in one of the busiest sea arteries in the world. Shipping will also be severely restricted towards the Suez Canal.”
The Court would like action to be taken now to prevent all these consequences. He is also negotiating in Yemen for this. “The oil has to be pumped to another tanker. Then the ship has to be cleaned,” explains Hof. “Then the immediate danger has passed.” According to him, the United Nations has also made a plan to implement it all. “The finishing touches are now being put on there.”
In Yemen, he negotiated with the Houthi rebels in Yemen. “I was there to convince them that we really can’t wait any longer and have to get started. That the entire international community is eager and that the Houthi rebels now agree to the UN plan.”
It was not easy to reach such an agreement, says Hof. “It’s very difficult to get in anyway. There has been no ambassador for over two years. There are also no commercial flights there. All conflicting parties must agree. So it is very difficult to get there.” He succeeded. “My role was to send a very strong message. It’s all taking way too long now. Something concrete has to be done now and we have to gain access to the ship.”
During the negotiations, they were therefore able to conclude an agreement with the rebels. “It’s an important step forward, but we’re not there yet.”