Red Sea oil tanker could cause eco-catastrophe any second now

The UN, the Yemeni government and Houthi insurgents have been in talks on how to handle the FSO more safely. Meanwhile, the huge floating oil storage ship remains abandoned in the Red Sea and threatens a massive oil leak.

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FSO Safer carries about 1.1 million barrels of crude oil – four times the amount that Exxon Valdez released during the 1989 disaster in Alaska. The vessel has been sitting and deteriorating off the Yemeni coast since being moored there in 2017. A new modeling study published Monday in the journal Nature Sustainability indicates that the longer it stays, the more likely a spill. And with massive consequences.

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According to the model, half of the oil would evaporate at sea within 24 hours. The rest floats towards Yemen’s west coastline and takes 6-10 days to land. A spill would threaten about two-thirds to more than three-quarters of Yemen’s fishery within a week and nearly destroy the fishery within three weeks. Depending on the season and the extent of the spill, between 5.7 and 8.4 million people could be short of food. As oil continues to spread, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Djibouti may also feel the oily impact of environmental chaos. A spill will increase oil prices by as much as 80%. Up to 8 million Yemenis who depend on fuel for their water pumps could lose access to running water.

FSO Safer is 4.8 nautical miles off the coast of Yemen. According to Greenpeace, no maintenance has been carried out on the ship since 2014, which is probably the reason why its hull is rotting. Only seven crew members are currently on board.

Worldwide, $ 14 trillion shipping has a deteriorating track record for abandoning ships. Last year, the number of abandoned ships more than doubled to 85. Often seafarers are stranded with the ships, their wages are unpaid and without the possibility of returning home.

Via The Guardian, Wall Street Journal and Greenpeace

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