FSO Safer: The ageing oil tanker is a time bomb on Yemen’s coast

Marcos A Orellana

Marcos A Orellana

It is not a question of if, but when the FSO Safer will fail. Constructed in 1976 as an oil tanker, the Safer was converted a decade later to be a floating oil storage and offloading (FSO) unit. The 376-metre-long (1233 ft) vessel contains more than one million barrels of light crude oil. But it has not been maintained properly for years due to the war in Yemen.

The human rights, environmental, and economic impacts of a major spill from the Safer would be catastrophic. Fishing communities on Yemen’s Red Sea coast, more than two million people, would be devastated. Two hundred thousand livelihoods could be instantly wiped out. Whole communities would be exposed to life-threatening hazardous substances.

A major oil spill could also close the nearby ports of Hodeidah and Saleef, which are essential for bringing food, fuel, and lifesaving supplies into a country where 19 million people need food assistance.

Additionally, the Red Sea’s biodiversity would suffer serious harm. The disaster would have a severe environmental impact on water, reefs, fish, and life-supporting mangroves. Increases in death and disease would threaten marine life, and toxicity could contaminate water, beaches, and sediment. Clean-up alone would cost up to $20bn.

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