Fears grow of a possible leakage of 1.1 million barrels of crude oil off the coast of Yemen.

The 45-year-old fuel vessel FSO Safer has 1.1 million barrels of crude on board and has been moored out at sea about six kilometres off Yemen's western lifeline port of Hudaida.
The 45-year-old fuel vessel FSO Safer has 1.1 million barrels of crude on board and has been moored out at sea about six kilometres off Yemen's western lifeline port of Hudaida. (AFP)

Yemen's Houthi group has signed an agreement with the United Nations to deal with a decaying oil tanker threatening to spill 1.1 million barrels of crude oil off the war-torn country's coast.

"A memorandum of understanding has been signed with the United Nations for the Safer tanker," Mohammed Ali al Houthi, a senior official of the movement, said in a Twitter post late on Saturday.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said last month that there was an agreement in principle to shift the oil from the tanker Safer to another ship. He gave no timeline.

The Safer has been stranded off Yemen's Red Sea oil terminal of Ras Issa for more than six years, and UN officials have warned it could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.

The Houthis, who are battling Yemen's internationally recognised government, control the area where the tanker is moored and the national oil firm that owns it.

READ MORE: Greenpeace warns neglected oil tanker off Yemen poses 'grave threat' to aid

A deal had previously been reached for a technical UN team to inspect the deteriorating vessel, built in 1976, and conduct whatever repairs may be feasible, but final agreement on logistical arrangements did not materialise.

No maintenance operations have been carried out on the Safer since 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen against the Iran-aligned Houthis after they ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital, Sanaa.

The coalition controls the high seas off Yemen.

READ MORE: UN gives chilling estimates on the human cost of Yemen war

Source: TRTWorld and agencies