A decaying abandoned tanker loaded with oil near the coast of war-torn Yemen poses a potentially devastating environmental threat as fears mount that the tanker could possibly explode, according to the UN.
The tanker SAFER FSO reportedly contains as much as 1.1 million barrels of oil, valued around $60 million, and, according to experts, explosive gasses might have been building up in its worn-out tanks, which could rapture any minute.
The tanker could release around four times more oil than the amount from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, which is considered one of the worst man-made disasters in history, the Yemeni press agency reported.
The tanker, which has been referred to as a “floating ticking bomb,” was previously used to ship Yemeni oil from Ras Isa. However, the tanker was abandoned after oil trade in Yemen stopped following the start of the conflict between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed UN Yemen government.
The Yemeni government, in a letter to the UN, has warned of a “bad and deteriorating situation” that could lead to an “imminent environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.''
UN officials have been planning to visit the tanker in order to assess the situation; however, they have not been able to acquire the necessary permits.
In a speech to the UN Security Council last month, Mark Lowcock, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs said, “If the tanker ruptures or explodes, we could see the coastline polluted all along the Red Sea. Depending on the time of year and water currents, the spill could reach from Bab Al-Mandeb to the Suez Canal, and potentially as far as the Strait of Hormuz,”