An oil tanker that has been stationed at Yemen’s coast is expected to explode or sink any day. If this happens, it will be endangering the lives of at least eight million Yemenis. If the worst scenario arrives, there will be an environmental catastrophe, and cost the maritime industry billions, as projected in a report published by The New Yorker.
The Safer is a monumental crude oil tanker. It is currently stationed near Hodeidah port, Yemen. Yemeni Safer Exploration & Production Operations Company, the owner of Safer, has been dysfunctional steam boilers since 2017.
Safer is too large for the Suez Canal and the English Channel. Per the report, the vessel had been built in 1976. It is one of the biggest oil tankers loaded with more than a million oil barrels.
The New Yorker report suggests that in the most unfortunate circumstances, the potential oil spill could even reach the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Here’s where, in terms of cargo, nearly 10% of global trade passes every year.
The unexpected shutdown of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait may keep the tankers that originate in the Persian Gulf from arriving at the SUMED Pipeline or passing through the Suez Canal, compelling them to reroute around Africa’s southern tip. As a result, the transit time and shipping costs would rise, per the US Energy Information Administration that notes that the strait is an essential route used for a majority of natural gas and oil shipments.
The US Energy Information Administration has reported that back in 2018, per day 6.2 millions of crude oil barrels and refined petroleum products passed through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait for the US, Europe, and Asia.
Safer’s owner is left with money that will only cover minor repairs on the vessel every year. Houthi rebels supervising the Marib oil fields located near where the ship is currently stationed have hindered efforts by NGOs or the UN to drain or dislodge the boat.
A skeleton crew that has been appointed onboard is desperately trying to prevent the ship from a potential accident. However, per the report, in case the ship sinks and the oil spills, the air would become polluted, putting the lives of nearly eight million Yemenis at risk. The former chief engineer of the vessel said that the ship has been moving each day toward its worst. As thousands struggle with famine and millions are lacking access to basic amenities during an ongoing war, a spill might block the Hodeidah port, where two-thirds of Yemen’s total food supplies arrive.
The report also mentioned that the Red Sea fishing industry in Yemen would be decimated if the Safer sinks and spills. The UN has not yet come up with a contingency plan to accommodate the shutdown of the Hodeidah.