Yemen: Oil salvaged from abandoned ‘time bomb’ tanker in Red Sea
An oil tanker labeled a “floating time bomb,” which had been adrift in the Red Sea, has been successfully emptied of its cargo, according to the United Nations.
The vessel, known as the FSO Safer, was abandoned near Yemen in 2015 amidst a conflict, carrying over a million barrels of oil. Concerns had arisen about the deteriorating condition of the ship, fearing it could potentially explode or disintegrate, leading to a significant oil spill.
The UN’s intervention has averted an environmental catastrophe, though the process of selling the recovered oil amidst the ongoing conflict remains uncertain.
The international community’s effort, led by the UN, raised $120 million to secure the decaying vessel and acquire another tanker for the oil transfer, which took place over 18 days in an area with known naval mines. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock acknowledged that the global community successfully mitigated a serious environmental and health risk by addressing the situation.
The FSO Safer was constructed in 1976 and was carrying more oil than was spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster when it was left at sea.
It is anchored near the Ras Isa oil terminal, which is controlled by Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement.
The group is still fighting a Saudi-led coalition in a conflict that has devastated much of the country.
Work is set to begin on the difficult task of decontaminating and scrapping the vessel but the fate of the recovered oil – which is majority owned by Yemeni state firm SEPOC – may prove even more complex to resolve.
There is no agreement on how profits from the oil’s sale will be shared among warring groups.
UN development programme administrator Achim Steiner said: “The best end to the story will be when that oil actually is sold and leaves the region altogether.”