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Moored five miles off the coast of Yemen for more than 30 years, a decaying supertanker carrying a million barrels of oil is finally being offloaded by a United Nations-led mission, hoping to avert what threatened to be one of the world’s worst ecological disasters in decades.
Experts are now delicately handling the 47-year-old vessel – called the FSO Safer – working to remove the crude without the tanker falling apart, the oil exploding, or a massive spill taking place.
Sitting atop The Endeavor, the salvage UN ship supervising the offloading, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly said that the operation is estimated to cost $141 million, and is using the expertise of SMIT, the dredging and offshore contractor that helped dislodge the Ever Given ship that blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week in 2021.
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How to remove one million barrels of oil from a tanker
Twenty-three UN member states are funding the mission, with another $16 million coming from the private sector contributors. Donors include Yemen’s largest private company, HSA Group, which pledged $1.2 million in August 2022. The UN also engaged in a unique crowdfunding effort, contributing to the pool which took a year to raise, according to Gressly.
The team is pumping between 4,000 and 5,000 barrels of oil every hour, and has so far transferred more than 120,000 barrels to the replacement vessel carrying the offloaded oil, Gressly said. The full transfer is expected to take 19 days.
The tanker was carrying a million barrels of oil. That would be enough to power up to 83,333 cars or 50,000 US homes for an entire year. The crude on board is worth around $80 million, and who gets that remains a controversial matter.
Here’s what we know so far:
The ship has been abandoned in the Red Sea since 2015 and the UN has regularly warned that the “ticking time bomb” could break apart given its age and condition, or the oil it holds could explode due to the highly flammable compounds in it.
The FSO Safer held four times the amount of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez off Alaska in 1989 which resulted in a slick that covered 1,300 miles of coastline. A potential spill from this vessel would be enough to make it the fifth largest oil spill from a tanker in history, a UN website said. The cost of cleanup of such an incident is estimated at $20 billion.
The Red Sea is a vital strategic waterway for global trade. At its southern end lies the Bab el-Mandeb strait, where nearly 9% of total seaborne-traded petroleum passes. And at its north is the Suez Canal that separates Africa from Asia. The majority of petroleum and natural gas exports from the Persian Gulf that transit the Suez Canal pass through the Bab el-Mandeb, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
The sea is also a popular diving hotspot that boasts an impressive underwater eco-system. In places its banks are dotted with tourist resorts, and its eastern shore is the site of ambitious Saudi development projects worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
The first step of the mission was to stabilize and secure the vessel to avoid it collapsing, Gressly said. That has already been achieved in the past few weeks.
“There are a number of things that had to be done to secure the oil from exploding,” Gressly told CNN, including pumping out gases in each of the 13 compartments holding the oil. Systems for pumping were rebuilt, and some lighting was repaired.
Booms, which are temporary floating barriers used to contain marine spills, were dispersed around the vessel to capture any potential leaks.
The second step is to transfer the oil onto the replacement vessel, which is now underway.
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Oil being removed from tanker near Yemen in Red Sea
After The Safer is emptied, it must then be cleaned to ensure no oil residue is left, Gressly said. The team will then attach a giant buoy to the replacement vessel until a decision about what to do with the oil has been made.
“The transfer of the oil to (the replacement vessel) will prevent the worst-case scenario of a catastrophic spill in the Red Sea, but it is not the end of the operation,” Gressly said.
While the hardest part of the operation would then be over, a spill could still occur. And even after the transfer, the tanker will “continue to pose an environmental threat resulting from the sticky oil residue inside the tank, especially since the tanker remains vulnerable to collapse,” the UN said, stressing that to finish the job, an extra $22 million is urgently needed.
A spill would shut the Yemeni ports that its impoverished people rely on for food aid and fuel, impacting 17 million people during an ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by the country’s civil war and a Saudi-led military assault on the country. Oil could bleed all the way to the African coast, damaging fish stocks for 25 years and affect up to 200,000 jobs, according to the UN.
A potential spill would cause “catastrophic” public health ramifications in Yemen and surrounding countries, according to a study by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine. Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Eritrea would bear the brunt.
Air pollution from a spill of this magnitude would increase the risk of hospitalization for cardiovascular or respiratory disease for those very directly exposed by 530%, according to the study, which said it could cause an array of other health problems, from psychiatric to neurological issues.
“Given the scarcity of water and food in this region, it could be one of the most disastrous oil spills ever known in terms of impacts on human life,” David Rehkopf, a professor at Stanford University and senior author of the study, told CNN.
Up to 10 million people would struggle to obtain clean water, and 8 million would have their access to food supplies threatened. The Red Sea fisheries in Yemen could be “almost completely wiped out,” Rehkopf added.
The tanker has been an issue for many people in Yemen over the past few years, Gressly said. Sentiment on social media surrounding the removal of oil is very positive, as many in Yemen feel like the tanker is a “threat that’s been over their heads,” he said.
The tanker issue remains a point of dispute between the Houthi rebels that control the north of Yemen and the internationally recognized government, the two main warring sides in the country’s civil conflict.
While the war, which saw hundreds of thousands of people killed or injured, and Yemen left in ruins, has eased of late, it is far from resolved.
Ahmed Nagi, a senior analyst for Yemen at the International Crisis Group think tank in Brussels, sees the Safer tanker issue as “an embodiment of the conflict in Yemen as a whole.”
“The government sees the Houthi militias as an illegitimate group controlling the tanker, and the Houthis do not recognize (the government),” Nagi told CNN.
The vessel was abandoned after the outbreak of the Yemeni civil war in 2015. The majority of the oil is owned by Yemeni state firm SEPOC, experts say, and there are some reports that it may be sold.
“From a technical point of view, the owner of the tanker and the oil inside it is SEPOC,” Nagi said, adding that other energy companies working in Yemen may also share ownership of the oil.
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U.N. begins high-risk operation to prevent catastrophic oil spill from Yemen tanker
The main issue, Nagi added, is that the Safer’s headquarters are in the government-controlled Marib city, while the tanker is in an area controlled by the Houthis. The Safer is moored off the coast of the western Hodeidah province.
Discussions to determine the ownership of the oil are underway, Gressly said. The rights to the oil are unclear and there are legal issues that need to be addressed.
The UN coordinator hopes that the days needed to offload the oil will buy some time for “political and legal discussions that need to take place before the oil can be sold.”
While the UN may manage to resolve half of the issue, Nagi said, there still needs to be an understanding of the oil’s status.
“It still poses a danger if we keep it near a conflict zone,” he said.
Russia has reported an unexpected setback in its lunar mission, Luna-25, which was launched earlier this month. The nation’s space agency, Roscosmos, disclosed that the spacecraft faced an unspecified issue while attempting to enter its pre-landing orbit. Roscosmos experts are currently analyzing the situation.
In a statement posted on Telegram, Roscosmos explained, “During the operation, an abnormal situation occurred on board the automatic station, which did not allow the maneuver to be performed with the specified parameters.” The agency did not provide specific details about whether this incident will hinder Luna-25‘s planned lunar landing.
The spacecraft is scheduled to touch down on the moon’s south pole on Monday, with a race against an Indian spacecraft aiming for a similar landing. The lunar south pole holds special significance for scientists, who believe that its permanently shadowed craters might contain water. This frozen water could potentially be converted into air and rocket fuel by future explorers.
On the same day as the technical issue, Luna-25 yielded its first data. While Roscosmos stated that this information is undergoing analysis, preliminary findings include data about the chemical composition of lunar soil and the detection of a “micrometeorite impact.” Roscosmos also released images captured by the spacecraft of the Zeeman crater, the moon’s third-largest crater in the southern hemisphere, measuring 190 kilometers (118 miles) in diameter and eight kilometers (five miles) deep.
The launch of Luna-25 from Russia’s Vostochny spaceport on August 10 marked Russia’s first lunar mission since 1976 when it was part of the Soviet Union. This mission was originally intended to carry a small moon rover, but this plan was abandoned to enhance the craft’s reliability by reducing its weight.
Roscosmos has expressed its desire to demonstrate Russia‘s capability to deliver payloads to the moon and ensure guaranteed access to the lunar surface, particularly in light of sanctions limiting its access to Western technology. The Luna-25 mission holds strategic importance for Russia’s space ambitions, backed by President Vladimir Putin, to establish Russia as a space superpower and transition Russian launches away from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Notably, only three governments—Soviet Union, United States, and China—have successfully landed on the moon. Both India and Russia are vying to be the first to reach the moon’s south pole. India’s previous attempt to land at the moon’s south pole in 2019 ended in failure when its lander crashed during descent.
(With AP Inputs)
An "abnormal situation" has struck Russia's Luna-25 spacecraft as it was preparing to transfer to its pre-landing orbit, Russia's national space agency Roskosmos says.
The Russian spacecraft is scheduled to land on the south pole of the Moon on Monday, part of a big power race to explore a part of the Moon that scientists think may hold frozen water and precious elements.
"During the operation, an abnormal situation occurred on board the automatic station, which did not allow the manoeuvre to be performed with the specified parameters," Roskosmos said in a short statement.
Specialists are analysing the situation, it said, without providing further details.
Earlier, Roskosmos said it had received the first results from the Luna-25 mission and that they were being analysed.
The agency also posted images of the Moon's Zeeman crater taken from the spacecraft.
The crater is the third deepest in the Moon's southern hemisphere, it said, measuring 190 kilometres in diameter and 8km in depth.
Roskosmos said data it had received so far had provided information about the chemical elements in the lunar soil and would also facilitate the operation of devices designed to study the near-surface of the Moon.
It added that its equipment had registered "the event of a micro-meteorite impact".
The Luna-25 entered the Moon's orbit on Wednesday, the first Russian spacecraft to do so since 1976.
Roughly the size of a small car, it will aim to operate for a year on the south pole, where scientists at NASA and other space agencies in accurate years have detected traces of frozen water in the craters.
The presence of water has implications for major space powers, potentially allowing longer human sojourns on the moon that would enable the mining of lunar resources.
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As the world awaits for the ending of two friendly nations' race to moon, technical glitch in Russia's Luna-25 is feared to be a setback against India's Chandrayaan-3 landing.
Keyonte George grew up idolizing Russell Westbrook.
A point guard with a high motor and a penchant for triple-doubles who was never going to relent and never back down, Westbrook could take over a game at any moment and was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2017.
Now George watches players closer to his age he feels he can emulate, players who have skills he wants to develop and improve, but even that small note of realism hasn’t kept him from having lofty goals and following players with impressive resumés.
Most recently George was keeping a close eye on the Denver Nuggets and the point guard who led them to the 2023 NBA title.
“This year I watched a lot of Jamal Murray,” George said. “A point guard that can get downhill, get to his spots. I’m just trying to take little things from his game, taking notes on the different shots that he was getting in the playoffs.”
George also spent time in the offseason working out with Sacramento Kings All-Star De’Aaron Fox.
It’s not an accident or an unintended coincidence that the NBA players George is working out with or watching are high-level point guards.
The Utah Jazz have a lot of skilled, young players on the wings and in the frontcourt, but they don’t have any certainties with their point guard rotation.
That being said, throughout the draft process one of the biggest questions regarding George was whether he had the ability to play point guard in the NBA, with some believing that he’d be better suited as a shooting guard who didn’t have to make the majority of decisions with the ball in his hands.
“Everything that people have said, I’ve already heard…I’ve seen all the media talking about this and that, the assist-to-turnover ratio,” George said. “So that’s something I wanted to Improve on and show people that I can be a point guard, I can take care of the ball.”
The Jazz selected George 16th overall in the 2023 NBA draft believing that he has the ability to be a primary ball handler and playmaker, and George believes it, too. He believes that his shooting and passing can translate to the NBA.
In the Jazz’s first game of Salt Lake City Summer League on Monday, he finished with a team-high 18 points to go with five rebounds, four assists, three steals and just a single turnover.
Adding to the success of that first night was the praise he received from summer league head coach Evan Bradds for his defense.
“Very impressed from the get-go,” Bradds said. “One thing, just seeing him out there talking and pointing, kind of helping direct guys into the right spots, I was very impressed with just his overall awareness…He got switched onto some bigger guys early on and even late and I thought his fight was great, and that’s exactly what I was hoping to see.”
On Wednesday night in the Jazz’s second game of the summer, a 104-94 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, George started out more aggressive than he had on Monday.
After rewatching Monday’s game he saw that he passed up on open shots and was told that he can let it fly when he sees a good look.
He closed out Wednesday night with 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting, hitting 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
Unfortunately in the second half George stepped on another player’s foot. He tweaked his own a tad and had to get checked out by the medical staff, but he said afterward that he was feeling great and fully expected to play in the final game of the Salt Lake City Summer League on Thursday night.
After finishing up his lone collegiate season at Baylor, Monday’s game was the first time that George had played legitimate 5-on-5 basketball and he understandably had quite a bit of nerves, even commenting on the size of the crowd before the team ran out onto the court.
But on Wednesday he felt a little more comfortable and a little more at home.
As the rest of the summer unfolds, with the Jazz heading to Las Vegas for another slate of summer league games, George hopes that all of his skills will shine through and he can continue to prove to the Jazz, the fans and the rest of the basketball world that he deserves his place in the NBA and that he can be the primary ball handler that the Jazz are seeking.
“Shots are gonna fall at the end of the day,” George said. “So it’s just about showing that I can take care of the ball, make the right reads and things of that nature.”
GUATEMALA CITY, Aug. 20, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Dionisio Gutiérrez, President of the Freedom and Development Foundation, is heading the International Observer Group for the electoral process in Guatemala, reaffirming his unwavering commitment to democracy in the region.
Distinguished former presidents of Latin America are participating in this electoral observation effort. Among them are Andrés Pastrana, former President of Colombia; Jorge Tuto Quiroga, former President of Bolivia; and Felipe Calderón, former President of Mexico.
Additionally, high-ranking officials from US security agencies have arrived in Guatemala, including George Piro, former Assistant Director of International Operations at the FBI; DC Page, former senior official from Homeland Security; Javier Pérez, former Director of the Miami Police; and Erick Hawk, former Chief of Security for the United Nations, among others.
Their experience, knowledge, and commitment to democracy and the Rule of Law will strengthen the observation process and contribute to ensuring fair and transparent elections.
This Mission underscores the international community's commitment to fostering democratic values and ensuring a peaceful electoral process in Guatemala.
The former presidents participating in the Observation Mission led by Dionisio Gutiérrez are part of the Freedom and Democracy Group. This recently formed group is the result of an effort led by the International Freedom Foundation, founded by Mario Vargas Llosa, of which Dionisio Gutiérrez is a member. The FDG comprises over 20 former presidents from Ibero-America and other notable leaders from the region, with the aim of defending and promoting the values of republican democracy and liberty in Latin America.
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SOURCE Fundación Libertad y Desarrollo