With one million barrels of oil in it, the abandoned Yemen FSO Safer can create catastrophe if not immediately dealt with
As Yemen and the Saudi-led coalition are in a truce, a new drawback of the war has begun to show up.
A Yemeni oil tanker that was largely abandoned in 2015 is now more like an ecological time bomb ticking on the Red Sea coast.
International aid agencies and environmental groups warned last week that the giant ship, known as FSO Safer, is now teetering on the verge of collapse. This is mainly because of the ship’s maintenance and repair operations that have come to a halt since 2015.
The bad news is that the ship contains more than one million barrels of crude oil. Therefore, if the oil tanker breaks apart, it could cause one of the largest ocean oil spills in history.
It is also estimated that the financial damage of the incident regarding the cleanup operations could also reach tens of billions of dollars; It is “a ticking time bomb in the Red Sea,” said Ghiwa Nakat, the executive director of Greenpeace for the Middle East and North Africa.
What is the solution?
To address the issue before it turns into a thing, the United Nations announced last week that it would launch a $144 million appeal to provide the financial recourses for offloading a million barrels of crude oil from the tanker.
“The first step is to find a way to quickly move the oil into a temporary vessel until the long-term storage issue is resolved. We’re not pursuing at this moment any attempt to sell the oil. It’s politically complicated to do that at this moment,” David Gressly, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen said last week.
The donors’ conference was held with the support of the Netherlands in The Hague. The UN officials noted last week that the offloading operation must be conducted before September to be effective.
They also have warned several times before that if the FSO Safer leaks, it could release four times as much oil as spilled during the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.
The environmental impact of such a disastrous incident would be disastrous too. As it may cut off a water source for millions of people, disrupt vital shipping through the Bab al Mandab strait, etc. the final result would be creating a humanitarian and ecological crisis especially for Yemen, a country already in crisis of more than seven years of war.
Who should be blamed?
The Saudi-led coalition launched a devastating war on Yemen some eight years ago in 2014. The war was a joint effort to reinstall former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi who is an ally of Saudi Arabia.
A few weeks after the breakout of the war, the coalition imposed an inclusive air, land, and sea blockade against Yemen. This cut off all ports of entry in and to Yemen and heavily limited the flow of food, fuel, medicine, and essential goods into the country. As a result of the war and the blockade,
Yemen has turned into the poorest country in the Middle East. It has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters in this country. And now, as the country is already grappling with a myriad of war-related problems,
Yemenis have to face the possible oil leak from the Yemen FSO Safer tanker. The spill, if happens, will surely damage several desalination plants and fisheries that are the last source of income for millions of Yemenis.