EU to donate $3m towards salvage of Yemen's ‘floating time-bomb’ oil tanker

A fraction of the cash required to deal with 'FSO Safer' has been raised

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The European Union has pledged $3 million towards an operation to salvage a crumbling oil tanker off the coast of Yemen after a disappointing fund-raiser brought in less than a quarter of the cash needed.

The UN says it needs about $144m to fund the operation from start to finish, including finding a temporary replacement for the Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) vessel to take on its 1.1 million barrels of crude oil currently threatening fisheries and livelihoods in Yemen and beyond.

A pledging conference in the Netherlands on May 10 secured less than half of the $80m needed to finance the first part of the operation.

“Salvaging this tanker is also a very good example of international cooperation to prevent a full-blown disaster, which would affect the livelihoods of millions of Yemenis, as well as fishermen and tourist operators in the wider Red Sea area,” EU High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell said on Wednesday, when announcing the donation.

A flurry of fund-raising activity was launched after the UN signed an agreement with the Houthi rebel group in March to finally end the risk posed by Safer which has been in need of maintenance and decommissioning for years.

Safer MOU

Previous attempts to sort the matter out were blocked by the Iran-backed group, which controls the port of Ras Isa where the Safer is currently moored.

An oil spill or leak could cost billions in clean-up — and result in an incident four times as big as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

As progress remains slow on the Safer dossier, a two-month truce which began on the first day of Ramadan may be extended amid international pressure on the warring sides to maintain the significant reduction in violence on Yemen’s front lines.

On Wednesday, the Houthis said they were “studying” a request by the UN to extend the truce which is set to expire on June 2.

After an initial failure to launch commercial flights to and from Sanaa last month, a plane successfully departed from the Houthi-controlled capital to Jordan for Yemenis to receive treatment abroad last week.

A second commercial flight took off from the Jordanian capital Amman to Sanaa, “as per the terms of the truce agreement”, in a positive sign that Yemen might be finally on its way to more peaceful times, after the Houthis took control of the capital in 2015 and the government launched a counter-offensive which led to all-out war.

Updated: May 19, 2022, 11:27 AM