The SMIT Hunter and FSO Safer are pictured off of Yemen’s shore in 1992. (Photo credit: Maasmondmaritime | Flickr)
The UN announced on 20 January that it still needs additional funds to proceed with the operation to remove crude oil from the abandoned FSO Safer tanker, which has been moored for more than seven years off the coast of Yemen.
According to UN spokesman Farhan Haq, the additional funds needed could amount to some $20 million, in addition to the more than $84 million already provided by various donors.
Haq stated at a press conference on 19 January that “there is a need for a large amount of money, and it may be tens of millions of dollars or more, and what we were told is that the increase lies in the cost of a very large crude container, which exceeds 50 percent of the cost.”
Haq continued, “the UN is moving swiftly to establish a workable solution with a maritime mediator and other partners and maintains confidence that work can start over the coming months.
Over the past year, the UN has been desperately trying to gather the funds to launch the operation. On 21 September 2022, it announced that 17 countries, as well as companies and individuals, pledged $78 million to remove the abandoned oil tanker.
At the time, UN officials said this amount would allow them to begin the operations in “early 2023.” Officials also said most of the pledges still needed to be transferred.
Making things more complicated, throughout the past year, UN aid agencies have faced their biggest funding gap due to the large number of crises that unfolded across the world and the west’s prioritization of relief funds for Ukraine.
Due to a criminal blockade by the Saudi coalition on Yemen, the “ticking time bomb” ship has been exposed to humidity and corrosion with little or no maintenance since the Yemen war started in 2015.
The UN warned that a spill could devastate the Yemeni population, which depends on fishing in this area, and could also lead to the temporary closure of critical ports to enter food and humanitarian aid into the country.
The floating super tanker holds roughly four times the amount of crude spilled during the Exxon Valdez disaster, posing a severe environmental threat.