Critical funding and timely action are needed to prevent the FSO Safer anchored close to Yemen’s coastline from sparking a major oil spill, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the country, David Gressly said.
avid Gressly outlined plans to address the threat posed by the FSO Safer, described as a time bomb sitting off Yemen’s Red Sea coast. The 45-year-old floating storage and offloading (FSO) facility holds 1.1 million barrels of oil, or four times the amount of the Exxon Valdez.
The ship is at imminent risk of spilling a massive amount of oil due to leakages or an explosion, which:
If it were to happen, the spill would unleash a massive ecological and humanitarian catastrophe centered on a country already decimated by more than seven years of war
said Mr. Gressly.
A ‘Safer’ plan
A UN-coordinated plan aims to address the threat, with an overall cost of around $80 million. Yemen’s warring sides, which have implemented a two-month ceasefire, have signalled their support, as have senior UN leaders and some countries on the Security Council.
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The plan has received the backing of the Yemeni Government, based in Aden, while a memorandum of understanding has been signed with the de facto authorities in the capital, Sana’a, who control the area where the FSO Safer is located.
The plan covers two tracks, which will run simultaneously. It calls for installing a long-term replacement for the decrepit tanker within an 18-month period, and an emergency operation to transfer the oil to a safe temporary vessel over four months, thus eliminating any immediate threat.
Both the FSO Safer and the temporary vessel would remain in place until all the oil is transferred to the permanent replacement vessel. The FSO Safer would then be towed to a yard and sold for salvage.
‘Timing is tight’
To raise the funds, a pledging conference in May, co-hosted by the Netherlands, is set to be announced shortly. Mr. Gressly will travel to Gulf capitals to discuss the plan and drum up financial support.
He underlined the urgent need for funding, stressing that without it, the “time bomb” will continue to tick.
My particular concern is really we need to finish this operation by the end of September to avoid the turbulent winds that start in the latter part of the year…increasing the risk of a break-up, and also increasing the risk in conducting any operation. So timing is tight