Yemen’s old oil carrier now riskier to Red Sea assaults

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Increasing Maritime Security Threats Pause Disassembly of Aging Oil Tanker off Yemen

The destruction process of an aged oil tanker on the Yemeni coast has been temporarily halted due to concerns over escalating maritime safety risks, according to authorities. A possible environmental and financial disaster was thwarted after successfully transferring oil from this deteriorating vessel, which was once labeled a “ticking time bomb”, to a new ship in August last year. News comes from sources at Reader Wall.

Situation Context

The FSO Safer, an oil vessel that had been in the Red Sea for 48 years, posed a significant environmental risk due to its corroding structure and its storage of 1.14 million barrels of crude oil. The war-induced situation in Yemen left the ship without maintenance, thus increasing the potential for a hazardous oil spill.

The United Nations heralded the successful transfer of the crude oil as a crucial milestone in averting a potential catastrophe. Although the Safer still presented an environmental risk, dismantling it was the final stage required for complete resolution. Unfortunately, this process has been delayed due to a dramatic deterioration in Red Sea security, a consequence of increased conflict in the region and significant funding shortfalls.

Threats on Maritime Security

Relation between Israel and Hamas has caused tensions that have reverberated into the wider regional maritime security environment. Iran-backed Huthi forces, who command the waters surrounding the Safer, commenced a series of ship attacks in November. Subsequent to these attacks, US and UK forces have carried out numerous strikes on Huthi targets throughout the month. These developments have placed untenable operational and financial stress on the Safer project, thereby necessitating its suspension for the foreseeable future.

Risk of Stray Missiles

As reported by Edrees al-Shami, the executive general manager of Yemeni oil and gas company SEPOC, appointed by Sanaa, the ship could potentially be hit by a stray missile due to heightened conflict in Huthi-controlled territories.

Complications from the Ongoing War

Both Sanaa and Aden, Yemen’s rival authorities, have disagreed over the ownership of the oil previously held by the Safer and its new host, the MT-Yemen. The Huthis have expressed an intention to sell the oil to pay their workers’ salaries and fund the construction of onshore oil storage facilities.

As per last summer’s transition agreement, the MT-Yemen was scheduled to be under the management of a UN-contracted firm for a minimum of six months. However, SEPOC might eventually manage the vessel due to recent regional developments.

Next Steps for the Project

Remaining steps in the project include anchoring a buoy to the MT-Yemen, inspecting the underwater pipeline stretching from Yemen to the Safer, and potentially connecting it to the MT-Yemen. Failure to provide adequate operation support to the vessel could result in a repetition of the Safer situation, as cautioned by Shami.

John Kerry

John Kerry, a distinguished author in the realm of science, explores the intricate intersections of environmental policy and scientific advancements. With an insightful pen, he navigates complex issues, offering readers a profound understanding of the crucial role science plays in shaping sustainable futures. Dive into Kerry's work on ReaderWall to embark on a journey through the nexus of science and policy.