On 9 May, the UN warned Yemen of a potential oil spill from a decaying tanker anchored at the country’s coastline, estimating it would cost $20 billion to clean up.
UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly, described the current situation as “a time bomb sitting off Yemen’s Red Sea coast” and urged the UN for funding to avert the crisis, during a briefing in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
“Our recent visit to [the FSO Safer] with technical experts indicates that the vessel is imminently going to break up,” he said.
Gressly said that the Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) tanker is four times the size of the Exxon Valdez, which caused one of the largest environmental disasters in 1989.
The FSO tanker was constructed in 1976, and has been anchored 60 kilometers north of the port of Hodeidah since 1988.
Reports claim that the tanker contains 1.1 million barrels of oil. It was used to store national oil prior to the 2015 Saudi-led invasion of Yemen.
The tanker has remained moored in the intervening years, without receiving any service.
The UN is set to stage a donor conference on 11 May to raise $80 million to prevent the erosion of the oil tanker. Gressly said that this amount would be initially needed to secure the oil, but the total operation would cost $144 million.
Yemen’s Ansarallah resistance movement has held the Saudi-led coalition responsible for any potential oil leakage.
The naval blockade imposed the Saudi war coalition has prevented authorities from navigating around the coast, and, as a result, the FSO tanker has not received consistent maintenance over the years.
With the 2 April ceasefire agreement in action, Yemen is hoping to have more access to its ports, giving it the opportunity to prevent the potential environmental disaster near its coastline.