- The United Nations on Tuesday began a salvage operation to remove 1.1M barrels of oil from the FSO Safer, a decaying supertanker off Yemen's Red Sea coast.1
- The crew of specialists on the salvage support vessel the Ndeavor is tasked with inspecting the Safer, securely transferring the oil to another replacement tanker, and then towing the supertanker to a green recycling yard.2
- Even after the oil is transferred and the worst-case spill scenario is averted, the decaying tanker will still hold a large amount of residual oil that could pose a significant environmental threat to the Red Sea.3
- While UN member states, private firms, and individuals have contributed $114M to stop the Red Sea Spill, the project is reportedly underfunded, with about $29M still required.4
- Per the UN, if the Safer – which holds four times the amount of oil spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska – explodes or breaks apart, the spill risks destroying coral reefs, exposing millions to highly polluted air, and disrupting shipping through the Suez Canal.1
- The Safer was left abandoned off Yemen's Ras Isa peninsula in 2015 due to the country's civil war, which has killed more than 300K people and left over 17M in need of food assistance.4
- Narrative A, as provided by CNN. The clock is ticking to avert disaster. Considering that the immense economic, humanitarian, and environmental consequences of a major spill from the Safer could be catastrophic — especially in a country already devastated by war — the international community must move swiftly. Though it will be expensive, technically complex, and extremely dangerous, the salvage operation must ensure that this ecological bomb is defused without delay.
- Narrative B, as provided by Forbes. The threat posed by the Safer highlights the global shipping industry's over-reliance on fossil fuels even amid the risks posed by climate change; the logical way to reduce the frequency, magnitude, and consequences of oil spills in an era of global warming is not to simply react to immediate threats, but to accelerate decarbonization. Additionally, in the meantime, governments and international agencies must routinely enforce the oil industry's fundamental obligations to mitigate spills and reduce their contribution to the ongoing destruction of the global environment.