Inger Andersen, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, has told the UN security council that a deteriorating, disused FSO off Yemen represents an environmental threat “four times worse than Exxon Valdez”.
The decaying Safer FSO with 1.1m barrels of oil onboard has been moored and left without maintenance near the war-torn Yemeni port of Ras Isa for more than five years.
“Prevention of such a crisis from precipitating is really the only option,” Andersen said, warning that if the FSO breaks up it could wreck ecosystems and livelihoods for decades. “Despite the difficult operational context, no effort should be spared to first conduct a technical assessment and initial light repairs,” she added.
Seawater began leaking into the 44-year old tanker in late May this year, sparking renewed fears of a major oil spill. The FSO was owned by the Yemeni government but was seized by the Houthis in 2015.