A mammoth oil- tanker decays in the Red Sea, a threat to the water supply of millions of people and the world’s most resilient Coral reef.
Known as the Safer, the ship is 362 meters long and holds 1 million barrels (42 million gallons or 159 million liters) of oil in its 34 storage tanks. A Yemeni oil company owns the ship, which under normal circumstances requires constant maintenance to remain safe. With Yemen at war since 2014, the company has failed to maintain the ship at all. The Safer is abandoned and rusting near the Hudaydah harbor in Yemen, where it once served as a floating storage unit. Oil is now seeping into the water around the ship, causing a major leak, according to a new newspaper.
“The time is now to prevent the potential devastation of the region’s waters and the livelihood and health of millions of people in half a dozen countries along the Red Sea coast,” Dr. Karine Kleinhaus, a marine biologist and physician at Stony Brook University in New York, said in a statement.
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If all of the Safer’s 34 storage tanks were ruptured, the spill would dump four times more oil into the Red Sea – a long, narrow inlet of the Indian Ocean separating the Arabian Peninsula from North Africa – than the Exxon Valdez that runs along the coast. from Alaska in 1989.
Djibouti, Eritrea, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen all border the Red Sea or one of its inlets. Each of these countries would face environmental consequences from a major spill.
The Red Sea is also home to coral reefs that are more resilient to the rising temperatures of climate change than the dying reefs elsewhere in the world. A computer model used for the new paper, published today (Dec. 15) in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, showed that in a spill, the oil would disperse widely. The worst-case scenario would be a winter leak, they wrote. During the winter, the currents are set up to spread the oil more widely.
“If a spill from the Safer were allowed to occur, the oil would spread through ocean currents to devastate a global ocean resource such as the coral reefs of the northern Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba. [located at the northern tip of the Red Sea] “They are expected to be among the last reef ecosystems in the world to survive for decades to come,” Kleinhaus said.
The Houthis, a Yemeni armed group that controls the territory near the ship, said on Nov. 24 that they would allow the United Nations to work on the ship. according to The New York Times. But it may be too late, the authors wrote. The tanker is actively declining and no one from the UN has yet reached the ship.
Even if disaster is averted here, the researchers wrote, there should be stricter regulations in the future for ships operating in the Red Sea, where millions of barrels of oil are transported every day.
Originally published on Live Science.