Not Safe, Not Safer, Not Safe

Reprinted from my article on NoMorePencils


Remember the Exxon Valdez that ruptured when it hit a reef off the coast of Alaska?

The oil tanker owned by the Exxon Shipping Company, spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989.

It caused the world’s biggest maritime environmental disaster.

In terms of volume of oil released it is second to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but in terms of damage it is the worst by far. Despite a clean-up that went on for years, less than 10% of the oil was recovered.

Now fast forward to today, and just so we are sure we are comparing apples with apples, that was 11 million gallons of crude oil that leaked out of the Exxon Valdez.

In the oil industry, a barrel is defined as 42 US gallons, or 35 imperial gallons.

Well, the Floating Storage And Offloading Vessel Safer (yes, that’s its name) has 1.2 million barrels of crude oil in its tanks. That’s 50.4 million US gallons of oil, or more than four times the amount on the Exxon Valdez.

The FSO Safer lies 15° 07.0′ N, 042° 36.0′ E at the Ras Isa Marine Terminal (YERAI) and it has been there since 1988, rusting and abandoned.

It’s owned by a company that is owned by the Yemeni Government but since 2015 it has been a pawn in a game of chicken between Iranian-back Houthi rebels and just about everyone else.

The Houthis control the area and they want payment for the oil. The UN wants to avoid an ecological disaster.

Here is a general map of the region, with the FSO Safer marked with a red dot.

Apart from the ecological damage at stake, to the south is the narrow Bab-El-Mandeb Strait (‘The Gate of Lamentations’ in Arabic) that gives out into the Gulf of Aden. Via the Suez Canal it is the shortest trade route between the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and the rest of East Asia. So not surprisingly it is one of the world’s major trade routes. 

So how is this going to play out? The Houthis agreed to let UN inspectors in, and then changed their minds. And meanwhile the hulk rusts.

Please share this article. It must not be that inaction by those in authority allow a disaster to happen.

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