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The Cradle
UN operation to unload tanker off Yemen’s coast to begin early 2023
The collection of aid to unload the FSO Safer has been stymied by an unprecedented funding gap for UN aid agencies
By News Desk - November 18 2022
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(Photo credit: Al-Sarira)

The UN announced on 18 November that the operation to unload the FSO Safer tanker, which has been moored off of Yemen’s Red Sea coast for over three decades, will begin in early 2023 and will span a period of 18 months.

The documents issued by the UN outline a proposal for the appointment of an international coordinator to oversee the unloading of the FSO Safer. They add that the process will depend on the success of the technical and safety measures for the workers that will carry out the operation.

Regarding safety, the UN plan also highlights the importance of making sure that no elements of the armed conflict taking place in Yemen will pose a threat to those carrying out the operation.

The UN documents fail to mention the fate of the oil within the FSO Safer and how much of it will be sold after the operation is completed. It also fails to mention what will become of the dilapidated tanker.

The first step of the unloading plan will center around evaluation, inspection, and the establishment of a safe working environment. After this, the oil cargo will be transferred onto another vessel.

The UN plan also outlines the need to seal off the tanker’s pipeline valves in order to prevent a spill during the transfer process, which will involve professionally hired divers. Once the transfer is complete, the tanker is expected to remain – at least temporarily – on the new vessel.

According to the plan, there will be no immediate need to determine “whether owners will agree to relinquish their rights so that the oil can be sold.” The FSO Safer is owned by the Yemeni Safer Exploration & Production Operation Company (SEPOC), which was nationalized in 2005 after the expiration of its production sharing agreement with the US-based HUNT oil company.

The floating super tanker holds roughly four times the amount of crude that was spilled during the Exxon Valdez disaster, posing a severe environmental threat.

The UN has been desperately trying to gather the funds to launch the operation. On 21 September, it announced that 17 countries, as well as companies and individuals, pledged $78 million to remove the abandoned oil tanker, covering the needed amount.

Despite this, UN officials said at the time that most of the pledges had yet to be transferred.

Making things more difficult, throughout the past year, UN aid agencies have faced their biggest funding gap as a result of the large number of crises that unfolded across the world, as well as the west’s prioritization of relief funds for Ukraine.

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