A potential humanitarian and environmental time-bomb is sitting just of the Red Sea coast of Yemen - and is receiving bizarrely little global attention and interest: The FSO SAFER is a 45-year-old, 1200 foot tanker attached to a 272 mile pipeline. It holds over a million barrels of crude oil - and it is falling apart. If it does, the resulting oil spill will be four times the size of the Exxon spill in 1989. CMEC director, Charlotte Leslie talks to maritime security expert, Dr. Ian Ralby, of I.R. Consilium, about this impending disaster and what we can do about it.
Since 2015, Yemen has been mired in one of the worst civil wars of the 21st century. The humanitarian cost is horrifying. Famine is rife, aid struggles to reach those who need it, and Covid-19 exacerbates this living nightmare. The death toll is already in six figures and continues to climb.
The complexity and horror of the civil war was born from a popular desire for change during the Arab Spring in 2011. Amidst the uprising, Yemen's fragmented groups competed to further their own goals. Amongst these different groups, which also include jihadists and Yemen's southern separatists, are the Houthis - a Shi’a minority from Northern Yemen who lead the challenge against the internationally recognised government of President Hadi.
The impending catastrophe of the FSO SAFER sits amidst this conflict. In many ways it embodies the conflict. Access to the SAFER and the waters in which it sits belong to the Houthis. The FSO SAFER itself, and the oil on board belongs to a company owned by the government of President Hadi.
Will the international community be able to break this deadlock? Will it finally gain safe access to the vessel to remove the oil from the disintegrating FSO SAFER? Will it prevent an oil-spill that would result in a humanitarian crisis and environmental disaster that would be felt around the world? Listen to the podcast HERE
Photo Credits: All images supplied to I.R. Consilium and printed with permission from the original photographers and copyright owners. The only editing has been to remove markings that might endanger the original source.
1. Deck of the FSO SAFER, indicating the lack of basic maintenance for several years, leading to incidental smaller spills.
( Date – February or April 2019)
2. A view of the external piping system and the hose failure that led to a spill on 22 April 2019
(Date: 22 April 2019)