UNITED NATIONS : On Thursday, the United Nations announced that it had acquired a ship to remove oil from a tanker that has been rotting for years off the coast of war-torn Yemen, in order to prevent a potentially catastrophic spill.
It has been reported that the United Nations Development Program has contracted with the major tanker company Euronav to purchase a crude carrier that will travel to Yemen to remove the oil from the stranded FSO Safer.
The Houthi-held port of Hodeidah is a vital gateway for shipments into Yemen, which is heavily reliant on emergency foreign aid. However, the decaying 47-year-old ship has not been serviced since Yemen’s devastating war broke out in 2015.
This agreement has been hailed as a “major breakthrough” by Achim Steiner, the administrator of the UN Development Program.
As he told reporters at the United Nations, “the risk of an environmental and humanitarian disaster on a massive scale” will be avoided.
After a month of routine maintenance, the ship will set sail, according to Steiner.
It is hoped that the ship-to-ship transfer can begin operations in early May, he said.
There is concern among United Nations officials that the ship will break apart, resulting in an oil spill that will severely disrupt international shipments and cost around $20 billion to clean up.
It is estimated that there are 1.1 million barrels of oil in the Safer, which is four times as much as was lost in the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, which was ranked as one of the worst ecological catastrophes in history by the United Nations.
The Suez Canal could be severely impacted if an environmental disaster blocked the Bab Al-Mandab strait connecting Africa and the Arabian peninsula.
The UN estimates the cost of the salvage operation at $129 million, of which $75 million has been received and another $20 million has been pledged.