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UN could start removing oil this week from decaying Yemen tanker

July 18, 2023 at 8:37 pm

The United Nations (UN) large crude oil vessel Endeavor, which aims to transport the oil in the tanker named “FSO Safer”, which has been abandoned off the coast of Yemen since 2015, arrives at the site at Ras Issa port, in Yemen on May 30, 2023 [Mohammed Hamoud – Anadolu Agency]

An operation to start removing some 1.1 million barrels of oil from a decaying tanker moored off Yemen’s coast could start by the end of the week, the United Nations said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

UN officials have been warning for years that the Red Sea and Yemen’s coastline were at risk as the tanker, “Safer”, could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.

UN spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said a vessel to which the oil will be transferred is less than 2 miles (3km) away and “making final preparations to moor next to the “Safer”, with ship-to-ship transfer of oil expected at the end of the week.”

Another vessel is already alongside the “Safer” to help with the transfer of oil.

READ: Insurance secured for decaying Yemen tanker before oil transfer

The war in Yemen caused suspension of maintenance operations on the “Safer” in 2015. The UN has warned that the ship’s structural integrity has significantly deteriorated and it is at risk of exploding.

The UN has said the clean-up of a spill could cost $20 billion.

Yet, it has struggled to raise the $129 million needed to remove the oil from the “Safer”, which included paying $55 million to buy the replacement vessel. The UN even started a crowd-funding campaign.

The salvage operation cannot be paid for by the sale of the oil because it is not clear who owns it, the UN has said.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Iran-aligned Houthi group ousted the government from the capital, Sana’a, in late 2014. A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in 2015 aiming to restore the government.

Peace initiatives have seen increased momentum since Riyadh and Tehran in March agreed to restore diplomatic ties severed in 2016.

READ: Transfer of 1.1m barrels of oil from decaying Yemen tanker to start early next week: UN