UN purchases massive ship to avoid catastrophic oil spill off Yemen
On Thursday, the UN revealed it had purchased a huge crude carrier from major tanker company Euronav that would head to war-ravaged Yemen and remove more than a million barrels of crude oil sitting for years on a decaying supertanker in the Red Sea.
Achim Steiner from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has called the purchase a “major breakthrough”. The ship is currently undergoing routine maintenance in China and would be available for the operation in early May, a UNDP statement said.
The stranded ship – the FSO Safer – was constructed as a supertanker in 1976 and later converted into a floating storage for oil. It was left abandoned after Yemen’s civil war broke out in 2015 and has not been serviced since.
The 376 m vessel is anchored near the Ras Isa oil terminal, which is under the control of Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement. It holds an estimated 1.14 million barrels of crude oil but there are fears it could soon explode or break apart, triggering an environmental and humanitarian disaster.
The UNDP statement revealed the potential of a major oil spill, adding such an incident would expose whole communities to life-threatening toxins and millions to highly polluted air, adding an oil spill on a massive scale would devastate fishing communities and likely wipe out 200,000 livelihoods instantly.
A potential oil spill could cost up to $20 billion to clean up.
For years, the UN had been searching for a solution to the decaying supertanker and appealed for donations. While $75 million of the estimated $129 million required for the planned operation has already been received, another $20 million has been pledged, it mentioned.
Nevertheless, the operation could still be suspended if enough funds aren’t raised, Steiner told reporters on Thursday, highlighting the possibility of things going wrong owing to the risk involved.
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