Super-tanker anchored off Yemen’s coast ‘may explode at any moment,’ says UN

Stock photo of a supertanker (AFP via Getty Images)
Stock photo of a supertanker (AFP via Getty Images)

A giant super-tanker anchored off the coast of Yemen is “likely to sink or explode at any moment”, a United Nations official has said.

The FSO Safer, which contains more than a million barrels of oil, was abandoned in 2015 during the Yemen civil war and is now starting to fall apart.

David Gressly, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said authorities need to act quickly to stop one million barrels of oil from spilling into the Red Sea.

He told Sky News: “We don’t want the Red Sea to become the Black Sea, that’s what’s going to happen.

“It’s an ancient vessel, a 1976 super tanker from that era, and therefore is not only old but unmaintained and likely to sink or explode at any moment.

“Those who know the vessel, including the captain that used to command the vessel, tell me that it’s a certainty.

“It’s not a question of ‘if’, it is only a question of ‘when’, so it is important that we act as quickly as we can or it will eventually spill one million barrels of oil into the Red Sea.

“We really have no way out except to solve the problem.”

An oil spill would take two to three weeks to spread all the way up to Saudi Arabia, across to Eritrea and down to Djibouti, according to recent modelling by the Nature Sustainability scientific journal.

Within days it would shut Yemen’s key Red Sea ports of Hudayah and Salif, ending food aid relied upon by nearly six million people.

It would have a devastating environment impact and is likely to destroy coral reefs and protected coastal mangrove forests.