Mammal ola a tanker is rotting into the Red Sea, threatening the water supply of millions of people and the world’s most stable coral reef.
Called the safest, the vessel is 1,188 feet (362 meters) long and holds 1 million barrels (42 million gallons or 159 million liters) of oil in its 34 storage tanks. The ship is owned by a Yemeni oil company, which needs regular maintenance in normal conditions to stay safe. With Yemen waging war since 2014, the company failed to maintain the ship at all. The Safer lies abandoned and rusted near the port of Hudaydah in Yemen, where it was once a floating storage unit. Oil is now seeping into the water around the vessel, posing a high risk of leakage, according to a new paper.
“Now is the time to halt the potential for damage to the area’s waters and the livelihoods and health of millions of people living in half a dozen countries along the Red Sea coast, “said 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 34 storage tanks were safer to collapse, the spill would spill four times as much oil into the Red Sea – a long, narrow strait of the Indian Ocean separating the Arabian peninsula from north Africa – than the Exxon Valdez was released on the Alaskan coast in 1989.
Djibouti, Eritrea, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen all cross the Red Sea or one of its straits. A major spill would have an environmental impact on each of these countries.
The Red Sea also contains coral reefs that are more resistant to climate change temperatures than dying reefs elsewhere in the world. A computer model used for the new paper, published today (December 15) in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, showed that the oil would spread widely if spilled. Winter pouring is the worst case scenario, they wrote. During the winter, the streams will be set up to distribute oil more widely.
“If the Safer spill was allowed, the oil would spread through ocean currents to damage global ocean resources, such as the North Red coral reefs and the Aqaba Gulf. [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, “said Kleinhaus.
The Houthis, a Yemeni armed group that controls land near the ship, said on November 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 derailed, and no one from the UN has yet reached the vessel.
Even if a catastrophe is avoided here, the researchers wrote, going forward there must be stricter rules for the regulation of vessels used in the Red Sea, where there will be millions of barrels of oil moving every day.
First published on Living Science.