The United Nations announced Thursday that it has signed a deal to buy a huge ship that could move more than 1 million barrels of crude oil stuck in a rusting tanker off the coast of war-torn Yemen.
The deal is the first step in a final operation to eliminate the threat of massive environmental damage from a potential oil spill or explosion, and to evacuate the cargo.
United Nations Development Program Administrator Achim Steiner told a news conference that the deal was signed with Euronav, the world’s largest independent tanker company, to secure a major raw material purchase for the effort.
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He said the double-hulled carrier, found “after an intensive search on an extremely stressed global market”, is expected to move into Yemen’s Red Sea waters within the next month and park with the FSO secured.
“If all things go according to plan, ship-to-ship crude transfers will begin in early May,” Steiner said.
The Japanese-built Safer was built in the 1970s and sold to the Yemeni government in the 1980s to store 3 million barrels of oil pumped from fields in Marib, a province in eastern Yemen. The impoverished Arabian Peninsula country has been mired in civil war for years.
Yemen’s conflict began in 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels captured the capital Sanaa and much of the country’s north, forcing the government to flee south, then to Saudi Arabia. The following year, a Saudi-led coalition entered the war to fight the Houthis and try to restore the internationally recognized government to power.
There has been no annual maintenance since 2015 on the vessel, which is 1,181 feet long with 34 storage tanks. Most of the crew members except 10 were pulled from the ship after the Saudis entered the conflict.
In 2020, internal documents obtained by The Associated Press revealed that seawater entered the Safe’s engine compartment, damaging pipes and increasing the risk of sinking. Corrosion has covered parts of the tanker and the inert gas that prevents the tanks from collecting flammable gases has leaked.
Experts said maintenance was no longer possible because the damage done to the ship is irreversible, according to the AP report.
The situation has raised fears of a massive oil spill or explosion that could cause an environmental catastrophe. The United Nations has repeatedly warned that the tanker could release four times more oil than the infamous Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska in 1989.
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As of March 7, the UN has raised $95 million of the $129 million needed for the emergency phase of moving crude from the safe. So far only Rs 75 crore has been received.
Steiner said the “painful” cost of the massive 50-year-old crude carrier, which is 1,089 feet long, was $55 million. He said the United Nations had searched for weeks and appealed for donations.
“But the market is obviously so hot that we had to conclude in the end that the only way we could proceed, rather than waiting for someone’s generosity, was to not just decide to charter a vessel but actually Had to buy it.” Said.
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David Gresley, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said it was expected the oil would be safely removed within the next three to four months, “but we still urgently need funds to implement the plan and prevent disaster.” “
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