A UN-owned vessel arrived off Yemen on Sunday to pump over a million oil barrels from the FSO Safer, a rusting Yemeni tanker, to prevent a catastrophic oil spill.
Following years of a Saudi-led war in Yemen, the Nautica reached the waters of Yemeni seas at midday. It was prepared to moor along the FSO Safer, a decaying supertanker in the waters of the Red Sea. The sensitive operation to transfer about 1.14 million barrels loaded with Marib light crude to the Nautica, which the UN has bought for the purpose, is most likely to commence by the end of this week.
Despite stringent safety checks, there’s anxiety regarding a spill or a potential explosion. Safer is now transporting four times the oil spilt in the 1989 Exxon Valdez catastrophe off the Alaska coast.
The risk is extremely high, explained Mohammed Mudawi, the UN Development Programme project manager for Safer. He added that they hope this can be eliminated with the project’s completion.
Maintenance operations on the Safer were paused in 2015 during the war on Yemen. Due to the obstructions brought about by the blockade, the UNDP has strictly warned for several years that a catastrophe may explode at any time.
That said, a significant spill can result in an environmental disaster, damage Yemen’s fishing communities, and compel the closure of imported ports and desalination plants. Per the UN, the possible spill, which could cost over $20 billion to clean up, may reach Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, and Somalia.
The operation to empty decaying oil tanker
In May 2023, the UN planned on beginning the “preparatory phase” during the last week of May to discharge about 1.1 million barrels of oil from an ageing ship off the coast of Yemen to stop a catastrophic disaster.
UN coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly, informed journalists based in New York through video conference that a UN vessel dubbed the Ndeavor is docked at the port of Al-Hudaydah on the west coast of Yemen.
Gressly mentioned that a UN team would inspect the vessel and initiate safety measures.
If all goes per plan, sometime around late June or early July, they could declare that the critical phase of ship-to-ship transfer could be executed, explained Achim Steiner, the administrator of the UN Development Program.
The UN had launched a fund-raising campaign for financing the operation, anticipating a cost of about $144 million, which in the second phase involves replacing Safer with a safer and relatively more sustainable solution.
Reference: al-monitor, english.almayadeen, Barrons
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