Oil tanker salvage mission launched off Yemen

2023-06-01 00:53:33

The United Nations has begun a mission to recover over a million barrels of crude oil from a dilapidated tanker off the coast of Yemen. The head of the UN development agency UNDP, Achim Steiner, spoke of a “big step” in pumping the oil out of the “Safer” tanker. In the next seven to ten days, a second ship bought by the United Nations, the “Nautica”, is to go to the tanker so that the oil can be pumped out.

“The technical experts set foot on the Safer for the first time this morning,” said Steiner on Wednesday (local time) in New York. The UN operation off the coast of the civil war country Yemen is intended to prevent the 1.1 million barrels of oil from escaping uncontrolled and leading to an oil spill with serious consequences. The “Safer” has been lying in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen for years and is in danger of breaking up. That would lead to a gigantic oil slick with devastating ecological and economic consequences.

“It could be one of the greatest environmental disasters of all time,” Steiner said. Biodiversity, fisheries and tourism in the entire region would be endangered, and one of the world’s most important shipping routes could be severely disrupted. An initial inspection confirmed the disastrous condition of the rusty ship, which is more than 45 years old, Steiner said.

The “Safer” is a floating oil storage facility and is located about nine kilometers off the coast of Yemen. The 350-meter-long ship has not been serviced since 2015 due to the civil war in Yemen. According to Steiner, there is not only a risk of a breakup, but also an explosion from gases that have accumulated in the tank.

Last year, the UN, together with the Netherlands, collected money for the operation at a donor conference. The total cost of the project was estimated at around $144 million.

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