UK issues $2.4m funding to help avert 'FSO Safer’ oil spill off Yemen coast

Authorities fear environmental disaster in region if stricken ship deteriorates

Mar 2005.
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Britain has pledged £2 million ($2.4m) to help prevent a major oil spill off the coast of Yemen.

The UN is co-ordinating a major operation to stop an environmental disaster emanating from the stricken FSO Safer oil tanker, which is moored in the Red Sea.

The 400-metre-long Safer is one of the biggest sea vessels in the world and contains a million barrels of oil.

The UN has been co-ordinating international efforts to prevent a disastrous oil spill from the supertanker, described as a “floating time-bomb” with the potential to unleash an oil spill four times as disastrous as the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident in the Red Sea.

The funding announcement was made on Monday by Amanda Milling, the UK's Minister for the Middle East and Asia.

She called on the international community to step up its support during a meeting with counterparts from Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US.

“A major oil spill from the Safer oil tanker would create an ecological disaster in the Red Sea and exacerbate the dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” Ms Milling said.

“The UK is stepping up our support to resolve this crisis. The UN are ready to implement an emergency operation but the international community must increase funding to allow them to get started.”

Of the $80m requested by the UN for phase one of the operation, $60m has been pledged so far.

The plan would involve a four-month emergency salvage operation, during which a ship-to-ship transfer would be conducted to remove the oil from the Safer on to a UN-leased vessel.

The tanker would then be cleaned and eventually, a replacement tanker would be installed.

The vessel was used as bulk storage to export the country's small crude oil resources, but has been lying unsecured since 2015 when the conflict in Yemen intensified. The abandoned and rusting ship has had almost no maintenance since.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels control the area where the ship is located and have been monopolising access sought by the UN and technical inspectors for many years.

Updated: July 18, 2022, 5:49 PM