While there are new doing rounds that China is planning to store Iran supplied oil on its shores, United Nations has given out a distress call over a ‘catastrophic’ explosion of an abandoned tanker that is apparently loaded with oil.
SAFER FSO is a decaying tanker that measures 360 meters long and 70 meters wide and contains an estimated 1.1 million barrels of oil. This cargo today, is worth more than $60 million, based on current oil prices. The tanker that has been stranded near the Yemeni port of Ras Isa since 2015.
According to the United Nations, this abandoned cargo is threatening to become a major environmental disaster near the coast of Yemen. The tanker actually comes under the purview of the Houthi authorities that control the particular region where the tanker is floating. While they had earlier asked for UN assistance to check the tanker for assessments, the final never could happen.
This could possibly because, currently, there is no hope of selling the oil due to international sanctions, and thus the fate of the oil-laden tanker hangs loose. Ever since the war broke out in Yemen, the aging tanker has been acting as a floating storage platform only.
“Because the engines haven’t been running, the inert gases that are pumped into the storage tanks to stop the build-up of explosive gases from the stored oil haven’t been topped up, which is why there are worries about a catastrophic explosion,”
Doug Weir, research and policy director at the UK-based Conflict and Environment Observatory has told a prominent media agency.
According to the same media agency, Mark Lowcock, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the UN Security Council that the agency is now planning to deploy an assessment team to the tanker this week, but was not able to secure the necessary permits.
Lowcock estimates that ‘depending on the time of year and water currents, a spill from the tanker could reach from Bab el Mandeb to the Suez Canal — and potentially as far as the Strait of Hormuz.’