Super tanker anchored off Yemen coast is likely to sink or explode at any moment, UN says

Stock photo of a supertanker / AFP via Getty Images
Stock photo of a supertanker / AFP via Getty Images

The vessel was abandoned as the Middle Eastern country descended into civil war in 2015 and is now starting to fall apart. If the tanker explodes, it could cause an environmental disaster in the Red Sea.

A super tanker anchored off the coast of Yemen and containing more than a million barrels of oil is “likely to sink or explode at any moment”, unleashing an environmental and humanitarian disaster, a United Nations official has told Sky News.

The FSO Safer was all but abandoned in 2015 as Yemen descended into civil war and now the ship is starting to fall apart.

UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen David Gressly said: “We don’t want the Red Sea to become the Black Sea, that’s what’s going to happen.

“It’s an ancient vessel, a 1976 super tanker from that era, and therefore is not only old but unmaintained and likely to sink or explode at any moment.

“Those who know the vessel, including the captain that used to command the vessel, tell me that it’s a certainty.

“It’s not a question of ‘if’, it is only a question of ‘when’, so it is important that we act as quickly as we can or it will eventually spill one million barrels of oil into the Red Sea.

“We really have no way out except to solve the problem.”

According to recent modelling by the Nature Sustainability scientific journal, an oil spill would take two to three weeks to spread all the way up to Saudi Arabia, across to Eritrea and down to Djibouti.

Within days it would close Yemen’s key Red Sea ports of Hudayah and Salif, abruptly ending food aid relied upon by nearly six million people.

Most fuel imports would stop too, which matters because eight million people in Yemen rely on fuel-powered pumps or trucks to get their fresh water.

Further up the coast of Yemen an estimated two million people rely on desalination plants for their water, but these plants would also be contaminated by the oil spill and have to close.

The tanker is anchored in the Red Sea
Image:The tanker is anchored in the Red Sea

The environmental effects would be profound, destroying or damaging healthy coral reefs and protected coastal mangrove forests.

Nature Sustainability predicts that within three weeks an unabated oil spill could kill almost all of Yemen’s Red Sea fishing stock, upending the lives of millions of people living in coastal communities who rely on the ocean for their food and livelihoods.

Dr Hisham Nagi, professor of environmental science at Yemen’s Sana’a University, told Sky News: “The oil tanker is unfortunately located near a very, very healthy coral reef and clean habitat, and it has a lot of species of marine organisms.

“Biodiversity is high in that area, so if the oil spill finds its way to the water column, so many marine sensitive habitats are going to be damaged, damaged severely because of that.”

Readmore below



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here