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UN seeks USD80M to prevent tanker disaster in Red Sea

AP – The United Nations (UN) urged donor nations on Friday to provide USD80 million for an emergency operation to remove a million barrels of crude oil from a tanker moored off the coast of war-torn Yemen since 1988 that could explode or leak causing a major environmental disaster in the Red Sea and beyond.

UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Yemen David Gressly made the appeal saying the FSO Safer tanker is “a time bomb” because a major oil spill from it “would unleash a massive ecological and humanitarian catastrophe centred on a country already decimated by more than seven years of war”.

“Without funding over the next six weeks or so the project will not begin on time, and this time bomb will continue to tick,” he said.

In early March, the UN and Yemen’s Houthi rebels signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) after years of talks authorising a four-month emergency operation to eliminate the immediate threat by transferring oil on the Safer tanker to another vessel.

In the longer term, the MoU calls for replacing the Safer tanker with another vessel capable of holding a similar quantity of oil within 18 months.

Gressly, who signed the MoU on behalf of the UN said the emergency oil transfer from the Safer needs to start in early June and finish by the end of September to avoid turbulent winds and currents that start in October and continue in the last months of the year which increase the risk of the tanker breaking up and for the transfer operation.

“Waiting beyond then could mean delaying the start of the project by several months, leaving the time bomb ticking,” he said.