Satellite imagery have revealed a likely bunker spill from one of the four vessels that were attacked near Fujairah emirate, in the gulf of Oman on 12 May. The damaged ship is Bahri’s very large crude carrier (VLCC) Amjad.
This maritime route is particularly critical, as Fujairah is the only Emirati terminal located on the Arabian Sea coast, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz, through which most Gulf oil exports pass. Fifteen million barrels are shipped through the strait every day. That is about 40 percent of the world’s crude oil. The world’s largest crude oil storage centre is also being built in Fujairah.
Bunker fuel spilled from the Saudi vessel’s stern for at least four days after the attack. It is estimated over 235 barrels of bunker fuel spilled from the Saudi VLCC, which was not carrying any cargo at the time of the incident. All four tankers suffered hits to their sterns below the waterline, two of which suffered significant damage.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks of the four oil tankers, and the cause of the damage as well as the weapons used are still unknown. Expert point out to the possible use of limpet or artisanal mines, several dozens of which have been used during the nearby conflict in Yemen. On 14 May, Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a different set of attacks on vital Saudi oil installations with drones.
While this remains a minor oil spill, this incident perfectly illustrates the wider deep interconnection between maritime security and the environment. Damages to the hull of a large tanker may lead to major oil spill and serious cases of marine pollution.
Environmental concerns arise elsewhere. In the Gulf of Guinea, the robbery of crude oil at sea and the use of informal refining facilities constitutes a real threat to the environment.
Off the Horn of Africa, Somali piracy equally shows
how the environment and maritime security are linked. Illegal, unreported and
unregulated (IUU) fishing depleted Somali fish stocks, which in turn
contributed to the rise of piracy in the region over the last two decades.