Video: Abandoned Tanker Sinks off Yemen
Yemen’s Public Authority for Environmental Protection is reporting an oil spill contaminating the water of the Gulf of Aden after one of the dilapidated tankers anchored off the port sank under unknown circumstances last weekend. Details from the war-torn country are sketchy but it is raising new fears of a major environmental disaster in the region if actions are not taken for several similar vessels including a floating storage tanker holding more than one million barrels of oil and badly in need of maintenance in the region.
A spokesperson for the Public Authority told Yemen’s Saba news service that the unidentified vessel had begun to sink last week after laying for years abandon off the port of Aden. According to the local port authority, they tried to tow the vessel using a tugboat before it sunk, but that the operation required specialized equipment that they did not have available to stabilize the vessel.
Some reports suggested that the tanker might have been serving as floating storage along with other vessels in the region while others suggested it was simply an abandoned ship previously owned by a local business. It is unclear how much oil was aboard but unnamed local officials told the AFP that the oil has spread some 12 miles along the coastline. Local TV is showing images of the oil coming onshore.
The Public Authority blamed the sinking on the ongoing conflict saying the rebels were seeking to destroy Yemen’s environment. They provided no evidence that the vessel had been attacked or sabotaged. They however said the oil tankers along with leaking oil from the pipelines in Shabwa are causing significant damage to the Yemeni marine environment. They appealed for action from the United Nations before the damage gets worse and spreads to neighboring countries.
Reports indicated that the vessel is one of several dilapidated tankers in the same area all likely abandon and in need of maintenance. The most high-profile case is the FSO Safer, a 45-year old tanker converted to serve as floating storage. For years, the vessel has only had a skeleton crew aboard working diligently to provide stopgap maintenance but unable to address the larger issues. Last fall, the United Nations announced it had reached an agreement with the rebels to permit an inspection team to survey the Safer and develop a plan for the maintenance. That agreement collapsed this spring after months of back-and-forth negotiation and accusations from both sides leaving the Safer still in danger of causing a significant environmental disaster. Recently, an incoming UN official called for a new course of action to address the floating storage tanker.