A deteriorating oil tanker in the Red Sea could cause ‘environmental catastrophe,’ new study says

In this Sept. 29, 2018 file photo, a cargo ship is docked at the port, in Hodeida, Yemen.

There’s potential for an oil spill in the Red Sea that could cause an “environmental catastrophe,” a new study warns.
A “dead” oil tanker with 1.1 million barrels on board is stationed off Yemen’s coast.
A new study warns that a leak from the deteriorating oil tanker could be a disaster.

A deteriorating oil tanker with 1.1 million barrels on board could cause an oil spill that’d lead to an “environmental catastrophe,” according to a new study.

The study, published on Monday in Nature Sustainability, warns that the F.S.O. Safer, an ultra-large crude oil tanker stationed near Yemen’s Hodeidah port, poses a huge threat to the region.

The tanker has been been “dead” since 2017 after its steam boilers gave out. In other words, the tanker has been just sitting there off the coast of Yemen, an area UNICEF has labeled as “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world” due to the ongoing civil war.

The tanker is “single-hulled, meaning a breach will cause the onboard oil to spill directly into the sea,” according to the study, and a spill “could occur due to a leak or combustion.”

Researchers modeled the potential public health implications and found that a spill could disrupt the clean water and food supplies of millions of people. Cardiovascular hospitalizations due to pollution could also increase by up to 42% throughout the duration of a potential spill.

From an economic standpoint, the study said all of Yemen’s imported fuel that comes through key ports along the Red Sea could be severed, along with over 90% of the country’s Red Sea fisheries.

And as tens of thousands of Yemenis struggle with famine and millions lack access to basic goods, a spill could block the port of Hodeidah, which is where two-thirds of the country’s food arrives, the New Yorker reported last week.

As it is, over half the country’s population is dependent on the aid that comes through its ports, the study said.

Still, the disastrous potential of an oil spill is completely preventable through offloading the oil, the study said. But it’s a tall order for a country already strangled by conflict.

A skeleton crew aboard the ship has been fighting desperately to prevent the ship from sinking, exploding, or causing a massive oil spill. And the Yemeni Safer Exploration & Production Operations Company, which owns the Safer, reportedly only has enough money to make minor repairs on the ship annually.

To complicate things, Houthi rebels who control the Marib oil fields near where the ship is stationed have obstructed any efforts by the United Nations or NGOS to dislodge or drain the boat.

The study says no long-term solutions to improve the situation have been publicly proposed.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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