On July 15, the director of the United Nations Environment Program called for urgent action to address a decaying oil tanker moored off the coast of Yemen. The FSO Safer, which has not been maintained for the past five years since the outbreak of Yemen’s civil war, holds 48 million gallons of oil. If spilled, the tanker would leak four times as much oil as spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. In late May, water entered the tanker’s engine compartment, further raising the alarm on a potential environmental and economic disaster (New York Times, AP News, BBC).

The Safer, used as an offshore oil terminal in Yemen since the 1980s, is caught in the middle of Yemen’s civil war between Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition. The Houthis, who hold control over the tanker, have recently signaled that they would allow a U.N. mission to enter the site. Last August, the rebels also gave approval for a U.N. mission to the tanker, only to withdraw approval the day before (AP News, BBC, Forbes).

A potential spill poses a major threat to the environment and livelihoods of people in Yemen, a country already facing a major humanitarian crisis. In addition to damaging marine habitats in the Red Sea, an oil spill could cause more than 126,000 people working in the fishing industry to lose their jobs, according to the Yemeni environmental group Holm Akhdar (AP News).