Donors pledge $33m to stop 'catastrophic' Yemen oil spill

AFP

3 min read
This file handout satellite image obtained courtesy of Maxar Technologies on July 19, 2020 shows an overview of the FSO Safer oil tanker on June 19, 2020 off the Yemeni port of Ras Isa.
Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies/AFPThis file handout satellite image obtained courtesy of Maxar Technologies on July 19, 2020 shows an overview of the FSO Safer oil tanker on June 19, 2020 off the Yemeni port of Ras Isa.

'We need to work quickly to get the remaining funds to start the four-month operation'

Donor countries on Wednesday pledged more than $30 million to help prevent an aging oil tanker from unleashing a potentially catastrophic oil spill off the coast of Yemen, organizers said.

The decaying 45-year-old oil tanker, long used as a floating storage platform and now abandoned off the rebel-held Yemeni port of Hodeidah, is in "imminent" danger of breaking up, the UN warned on Monday.

But the promised $33 million at Wednesday's conference, put together by the United Nations and the Netherlands, fell short of a target of around 80 million to drain 1.1 million barrels of crude from the FSO Safer.

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"Today marks a strong launch of our efforts to ensure the project's success, including outreach to the private sector," said David Gressly, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

"We need to work quickly to get the remaining funds to start the four-month operation in the weather window we have ahead of us," Gressly said in a statement after the conference, which was held behind closed doors in The Hague.

So far, a total of $40 million in funds have been collected to carry out the operation - which organizers said was a mere pittance compared to the $20 billion it would cost to clean up a spill in the pristine waters of the Red Sea.

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The hulking FSO Safer contains four times the amount of oil that was spilled by the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, one of the world's worst ecological catastrophes in which pristine Alaskan waters were devastated, the UN said.

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