The Cradle
UN turns to crowdfunding to avert oil spill off Yemen’s Red Sea coast
Having failed to obtain the necessary funding from member states, the UN is now pleading with social media users to head off an environmental catastrophe four times larger than the Exxon Valdez
By News Desk - June 15 2022
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The SMIT Hunter and FSO Safer are pictured off of Yemen’s shore in 1992. (Photo credit: Maasmondmaritime | Flickr)

The UN announced on 13 June the launch of a crowdfunding campaign to collect $5 million to cover the costs of preventing a decaying supertanker, anchored off the coast of Yemen, from spilling a million barrels of crude into the Red Sea.

The supertanker, the FSO Safer, is an offloading floating tanker that holds roughly four times the amount of crude that was spilled during the Exxon Valdez disaster. It is moored off Yemen’s Red Sea coast and has received no maintenance since the start of Saudi Arabia’s brutal war on Yemen.

The naval blockade imposed by Riyadh has prevented authorities from navigating around the coast, and, as a result, the FSO tanker has not received the consistent maintenance it requires over the years.

Yemen’s Ansarallah resistance movement says it will hold the Saudi-led coalition responsible for any potential oil spill.

Environmental experts fear the supertanker could soon break apart or explode.

UN member states have pledged about $60 million of the $80 million needed for the initial operation to transfer the oil to another vessel.

An additional $64 million is needed for a long-term replacement of the supertanker.

The crowdfunding campaign was launched by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, David Gressly, to encourage contribution towards raising $5 million in individual donations by the end of this month.

“We’re trying to get to this $80m figure by the end of this month. It’s doable, but it’s going to take a push and that is why we’re calling on the public to help us to cross the finish line,” Gressly told an online briefing.

Gressly went on to say that, if the FSO Safer spills its cargo, cleanup costs for the disaster would exceed $20 billion.

The supertanker was built in 1976 and was later converted into a floating oil storage and offloading facility, anchored near the Ras Isa oil terminal.

Its structural integrity has deteriorated significantly as maintenance operations were suspended in 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its regional allies, with the support of NATO, invaded Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country.

Mr Gressly warned that the advanced state of decay of the FSO Safer meant a catastrophe was “not just a probability or possibility, but a certainty if we do not act.”