UN: The objective of the engagement has been achieved to avoid an oil disaster off the coast of Yemen | Policy

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER – Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United Nations said Monday it has finally met a goal of pledging funds to remove 1 million barrels of oil from a longtime and rusting supertanker off the coast of Yemen, moving closer to avoiding an explosion or a leak that could cause ecological and economic disaster.

The UN still needs to convince all donors to pay pledges for the $75 million first phase of the emergency withdrawal operation, warned Russell Geekie, spokesman for UN operations in Yemen. .

The rusting supertanker FSO Safer contains about four times the estimated amount of oil released in the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill that devastated the Alaskan coast. Funding delays and the seven-year war in Yemen have hampered international efforts to begin addressing the threat, making Safer the specter of impending disaster offshore throughout Yemen’s ongoing conflict.

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The UN has led a multinational effort to raise funds to begin removing the oil safely. The US envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, is among those asking for donations. This summer, the United States raised the threat that upcoming winter storms could shatter the decaying hull.

Liesje Schreinemacher, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, announced a new donation of $7.5 million (7.5 million euros) from her government during a trip to Yemen this weekend. end.

“Thanks to this contribution, we have now reached the amount needed to start the rescue operation and we can prevent a serious disaster from happening,” Schreinemacher tweeted.

The Netherlands, the United States and Germany are planning a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday to announce “the successful funding of the emergency operation” to neutralize the Safer threat. .

“However, the UN now needs donors to convert pledges into cash so that work can begin as soon as possible,” Geekie, the UN spokesman, who is coordinating the effort, told Reuters. ‘Associated Press in an email.

After the emergency operation, an additional $38 million will be needed for safe long-term oil storage, according to the United Nations.

The rusting and neglected Japanese-built tanker has been moored 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from the western port of Ras Issa on the Red Sea since the 1980s, when it was sold to the Yemeni government.

Documents obtained by the AP in 2020 show that seawater entered the derelict tanker’s engine compartment, causing damage to pipes and increasing the risk of sinking. Rust has covered parts of the tank truck and the inert gas that prevents the tanks from collecting flammable gases has leaked out. Experts say maintenance is no longer possible as the damage to the ship is irreversible.

The United Nations, United States and other governments, along with Greenpeace and other international organizations, have long warned that a major release – or explosion – could disrupt global commercial shipping on Bab’s vital routes. el Mendez and the Suez Canal, causing incalculable damage. to the global economy.

A major spill would also be an environmental disaster, devastating the Red Sea and its coasts. Experts point to the potential damage to tourism across the region. Local impacts could devastate the fishing industry in impoverished Yemen and potentially close Yemeni ports used for lifesaving humanitarian aid, according to the international community.

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