Progress Made in UN-led Effort to Safely Remove Oil from Decaying Supertanker off Yemen’s Coast
The United Nations-led effort to prevent a potential environmental and humanitarian catastrophe from the decaying supertanker FSO Safer off Yemen’s coast is making significant progress. The replacement vessel, Nautica, has now embarked on its journey to the site, and all technical preparations and agreements for the oil transfer operation have been finalized.
Abandoned in 2015 due to the conflict in Yemen, the FSO Safer poses a serious threat as it contains an estimated 1.14 million barrels of oil and is at risk of breaking up or exploding. The UN has warned that a major spill could devastate fishing communities along Yemen’s Red Sea coast and would cost an estimated $20 billion to clean up. Moreover, it could result in billions of dollars in global trade losses due to disruptions in shipping through the Bab al-Mandab strait to the Suez Canal.
To tackle this urgent challenge, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is spearheading the operation to remove the oil, and it has contracted SMIT, a subsidiary of Boskalis, for the job. The oil will be pumped out through a ship-to-ship transfer, which is expected to take approximately two weeks to complete once the replacement vessel arrives.
A team from SMIT has been on-site since late May, diligently preparing for the oil transfer operation. The Nautica, a vessel specifically purchased for this critical mission from Belgian tanker company Euronav in April, is set to play a pivotal role in ensuring the safe removal of the oil from the FSO Safer. UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner anticipates that the oil removal process will commence within the next week upon the arrival of the Nautica.
Leading UN system-wide efforts on the Safer since September 2021 is the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly. Gressly underlines the importance of the ship-to-ship transfer in this operation but stresses that it is not the conclusion. The next crucial step involves the installation of a CALM buoy to securely moor the replacement vessel.
Gressly expresses his gratitude to donors, private companies, and the general public for their generous contributions, which have propelled the operation this far. Their support has played a vital role in mitigating the looming environmental and humanitarian disaster posed by the deteriorating FSO Safer off the coast of Yemen.
As the world awaits the commencement of the oil removal operation, there is cautious optimism that this significant milestone will mark a major stride towards averting a potential catastrophe and protecting the fragile ecosystems and livelihoods dependent on the Red Sea coast of Yemen.
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