Decrepit tanker used for oil storage risks creating disaster
The UN is seeking to raise £65m to offload more than 1.14m barrels of oil that have been sitting in a rapidly decaying 45-year-old supertanker, Safer, off the west coast of Yemen. The oil is viewed as a bargaining chip by Houthi groups in negotiations with the Saudi- and Emirati-backed government.
No structural repairs have been made to the 376-metre-long vessel since Yemen’s civil war started in 2015 and the unavailability of diesel fuel has meant that Safer’s engines have not been started for several years. The structure has been exposed to humidity and corrosion with little or no maintenance.
Experts warn the ship is an unexploded timebomb capable of causing an ecological disaster, reports The Guardian. UN estimates suggest that if the ship’s cargo is unleashed into the Red Sea, more than 200,000 fishermen would lose their jobs and $20bn would be required for a clean-up operation.
Now a new plan will allow the UN to transfer about 1.1m barrels of oil to a secure vessel which would remain in place. A new tanker would be purchased for the Houthis within 18 months to replace Safer, and provide them with the insurance that they would be able to operate a profitable oil export industry when the civil war ends.
“While some may question the $80m price tag of the UN-mediated plan to address the threat posed by the FSO Safer, the costs of inaction – which start at $20bn for managing the consequences of a catastrophic spill – are far, far greater,” Doug Weir at the Conflict and Environment Observatory told The Guardian. “The world has watched this situation grow more dangerous with every passing month, and it’s vital that donors provide the money that is needed to allow this urgent plan to proceed this summer.”
The UN’s donor conference will take place on Wednesday in a bid to raise the $80m (£65m).