"The zombie ship": where it is and why it could unleash an environmental catastrophe – Zyri

The locals call it the ghost ship or the zombie ship. It has been abandoned for five years off the coast of Yemen with a million barrels of oil inside and under constant risk of spillage. The UN has regularly warned of an imminent threat of a dangerous environmental catastrophe.

Its about the super tanker FSO Safer left in 2015 near the port of Hodeida at the beginning of the civil war that hits that Arab country.

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The UN even organized a donor conference to raise money to unload the oil from the ship to avert the danger. But this Wednesday only managed to raise about half of the necessary funds.

The amount of oil on board the ship is four times greater than that discharged by the oil tanker Exxon Valdez in 1989, which caused one of the biggest environmental catastrophes in Alaska.

The FSO Safer is 45 years old and has not been maintained since 2015. It is because Yemen is experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world due to the war between the government and the Houthi rebels, who control the port city of Hodeida.

The tanker contains the equivalent of just over a million barrels and is at risk of breaking, exploding or catching fire at any time. Experts warn that it is a time bomb.

The vessel belonged to the Yemen Oil and Gas Corporation and was used to store crude oil. But she was stranded at the start of the war some 60 kilometers north of Hodeida, the Yemeni port controlled by the rebels.

In recent years the ship suffered a leak in a cooling pipe. In addition, specialists warn about the lack of maintenance to reduce the explosive gases inside it. Even in 2020, water entered the engine room, increasing the risk of sinking.

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The Yemeni environmental group Holm Akhdar, quoted by the BBC, estimated that an oil spill could extend from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. The area, he warned her, would need more than three decades to recover from a potential accident.

Meanwhile, the UN held a donor conference co-organized with the Netherlands on Wednesday to finance emergency operations in the FSO Safer.

Experts recently inspected the tanker and the structure of the ship is about to break, said the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly, at a press conference in Amman. The impact of the oil slick would be catastrophic, he added.

According to a statement, international donors pledged 33 million dollars during a conference held on Wednesday in The Hague, which together with money already previously committed adds up to 40 million dollars.

The amount is half of the funds that the United Nations considers necessary to carry out the emergency operation in which the oil from the ship will be transferred to another vessel that will maintain it temporarily.

In total, the organization hopes to be able to raise 144 million dollars to complete the plan, which in the longer term includes the storage of the barrels of crude oil in a more definitive place.

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After years of negotiations, the United Nations closed an agreement in recent months with the Yemeni government and with the Houthi rebels who control part of the country to withdraw the crude

The UN warned that a spill would be devastating for the Yemeni populations that depend on fishing in this area and lead to the temporary closure of ports essential for the entry of food and humanitarian aid into the country. The disaster could also complicate maritime traffic in a key area and leave enormous environmental damage in several countries.

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"The zombie ship": where it is and why it could unleash an environmental catastrophe - Zyri

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