UN hosts donor meet to raise $80m to replace Yemen's 'floating bomb' tanker

The deteriorating ship risks exploding or causing an oil spill that could cost billions to clean up

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The Netherlands will on Wednesday host a fund-raising event to raise money for an UN-led operation to dismantle a rusting oil tanker off Yemen's coast.

Dubbed a floating “time-bomb”, the Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) Safer tanker is moored in Yemen’s port of Ras Issa. It has been uncertified since 2016 and could cause an oil spill four times bigger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

In March, the rebel Houthi group signed an agreement with the UN in a breakthrough move to save Yemen and its waters from the threat posed by the expired vessel.

Safer MOU

The donor conference hopes to raise the $80 million required for the first step of the whole operation: dismantling the Safer and offloading the 1.1 million barrels of crude oil it currently holds.

“As a neutral country in this matter, the Netherlands has good relations with all parties in Yemen,” Dutch ambassador to Yemen, Peter Derrek Hof said in a statement carried by the country’s Foreign Ministry.

However, there is an expectation from the Houthis to co-operate in facilitating the process after years of barring UN inspectors from conducting maintenance work on the vessel.

Mr Hof spoke to The National after a visit to Sanaa and Ras Issa in March.

“The project can only be executed if enough funds are raised,” he said at the time.

The Houthis said they refuse to pay for any part of the operation — leaving the UN to rely on donor money for dismantling the Safer, offloading it, finding a temporary replacement and eventually substituting that with a temporary vessel that would be connected to the pipeline from Marib where the Safer is at the moment.

Updated: May 10, 2022, 1:53 PM