Over A Million Barrels Of Oil In A Rusting Vessel In The Red Sea Since 1988

Remember the Exxon Valdez that ruptured when it hit a reef off the coast of Alaska?

The oil tanker owned by the Exxon Shipping Company, spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989.

It caused the world’s biggest maritime environmental disaster.

In terms of volume of oil released it is second to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but in terms of damage it is the worst by far. Despite a clean-up that went on for years, less than 10% of the oil was recovered.

Now fast forward to today, and just so we are sure we are comparing apples with apples, that was 11 million gallons of crude oil that leaked out of the Exxon Valdez.

In the oil industry, a barrel is defined as 42 US gallons, or 35 imperial gallons.

Well, the Floating Storage And Offloading Vessel Safer (yes, that’s its name) has 1.2 million barrels of crude oil in its tanks. That’s 50.4 million US gallons of oil, or more than four times the amount on the Exxon Valdez.

The FSO Safer lies 15° 07.0′ N, 042° 36.0′ E at the Ras Isa Marine Terminal (YERAI) and it has been there since 1988, rusting and abandoned.

And since 2015 a pawn in a game of chicken between Iranian-back Houthi rebels and just about everyone else.

The Houthis want payment for the oil. The UN wants to avoid an ecological disaster.

Here is a general map of the region, with the FSO Safer marked with a red dot, and again in the close-up map.

Apart from the ecological damage at stake, to the south is the narrow Bab-El-Mandeb Strait (‘The Gate of Lamentations’ in Arabic) that gives out into the Gulf of Aden. Via the Suez Canal it is the shortest trade route between the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and the rest of East Asia. So not surprisingly it is one of the world’s major trade routes.

So how is this going to play out? The Houthis agreed to let UN inspectors in, and then changed their minds. And meanwhile the hulk rusts.

A general map of the region of the Horn of Africa, with the SFO Safer marked with a red dot.

A close-upl map 15° 07.0′ N, 042° 36.0′ E at the Ras Isa Marine Terminal (YERAI), with the SFO Safer marked with a red dot.

Update 16 August

The Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Aswat reported on 16th August on a seminar held by The Yemen Coalition of Independent Women. One item caught my eye, which is the claim that Iranian-backed Houthi militias are smuggling of Thorium from Yemen to Iran.

Update 18 August

Sea News reports that the IMO (an agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating shipping) is putting a plan in place to try to make the SFO Safer safe or to deal with a leak if there is one. I don’t know whether that is any advance on the news we have already, but one thing that caught my eye is that there are “recent reports of water entering the engine room”. 

Feudalism For The Twenty-First Century

Originally posted 4 December 2019 on ‘Marginal Seat’ (a site I have now redirected)

In the UK the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher introduced a Right To Buy for tenants of Local Authorities. Tenants could buy their Council houses at a discount reflecting the years they had spent paying rent.

Property prices rose in the years following, and at the same time the Government loosened the regulations around who could borrow on credit and for what purpose.

When tenants (now property owners) fell into credit card debt, the way out was simple – buy another property or remortgage with a larger loan.

When property prices fell and people lost their homes, people with more borrowing power bought them up to rent them out, assisted by tax incentives on mortgage repayments.

After some years the Government removed the tax relief on ‘Buy To Let’ mortgages, with the result that those properties were snapped up by people with even more borrowing power.

The result of forty years of Government policy has been to widen the gap between the haves and the have nots – and create a new feudal class for the 21st century.

In short, to bring to fruition the intended consequences of a long-term plan masquerading as unintended consequences.

Beware the apparent unintended consequences of Government policies that are in fact the fruition of a carefully laid out plan.

Update 8 December 2019

Article by Adam Williams in the Telegraph on 7 December 2019

Buy-to-let landlords plan to leave the market in huge numbers next year as new analysis suggests that more than 100,000 rental homes have been sold since a punishing tax regime was introduced.

Investors have faced stringent restrictions since April 2017, when the Government started to limit the amount of mortgage interest and other costs that could be offset against tax. In some instances landlords face a marginal tax rate of more than 100pc.

These new rules are being phased in until 2021, but thousands of landlords have already decided to throw in the towel. Analysis of mortgage transaction data by Savills, an estate agency, shows that 103,900 more buy-to-let homes have been sold than bought since the new tax regime was introduced.