Abandoned oil tanker off Yemen coast at risk of exploding (Reports).
The abandoned freighter FSO Safer has been sitting off the coast of Yemen for five years, with more than 1 million barrels of crude oil in its hull.
The United Nations and others monitoring the ship says it’s a ticking time bomb that could cause an environmental disaster in the Red Sea and on nearby shorelines worse than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Meanwhile, the Safer and its fate have been caught up for years in a civil war and political wrangling that have thrown Yemen into a humanitarian crisis.
“The disaster could happen at any second,” said an unnamed senior official at the state-owned company in charge of the ship, according to the Associated Press.
He issued a plea for international help, but Houthi rebels who control the area have denied access to inspectors who could assess the damage and perhaps repair or move the ship.
“Rescue Yemen from a terrible, imminent disaster that will add to Yemen’s burdens for tens of years and deprive thousands from their source of living, and kill marine life in the Red Sea,” the official said.
Photos taken last year show the tanker partially submerged and listing to one side. Seawater is leaking into the engine compartment, increasing the risk of sinking, and rust has covered parts of the tanker, according to documents obtained by the AP. Protections in place to help contain flammable gases have deteriorated.
There are also rumors that explosive devices have been planted in the waters around the ship but no one knows if that’s true, according to I.R. Consilium, a consulting firm that’s been monitoring the Safer.
The damage, lack of access and continued decline have put the ship in danger of rupture or explosion.
Joanna Wronecka, Poland’s ambassador to the United Nations, said at a U.N. Security Council meeting in November that could lead to an “unprecedented environmental and humanitarian catastrophe in the Red Sea.”
Among the impacts could be contaminated drinking water for millions of people who rely on coastal desalinization plants, an analysis by I.R. Consilium found. A spill could also disrupt shipping lanes in the Red Sea, a crucial route for oil and other goods, and cause damage to marine life.
The tanker was being used as a floating storage facility when the rebels took over in 2015, according to the AP report. It measures 118 feet long and has 34 storage tanks. The state-owned oil company can no longer afford to take care of it, although they recently sent a dive team to seal holes in the ship where seawater was leaking in.
U.N. officials say a spill from the Safer could be four times larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill that devastated Alaska’s Prince William Sound.