Plan to remove oil from FSO Safer makes progress

The United Nations launched a $144m appeal on Wednesday at a donors’ conference. David Gressly, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, said he hoped that the conference, held with the support of Netherlands in the Hague, would generate the funds needed to avert an environmental catastrophe on the Red Sea coast .

Gressly told Reuters that the amount they were looking to raise was low “compared to the potential impact of a spill that would be catastrophic. It would cost $20bn to clean it up.”

The UN is looking to raise the money so that it can remove the more than 1m barrels of oil stored within the decaying tanker FSO Safer (IMO 7376472), sitting south of Yemen. The ship is thought to have around 1.14m barrels stored aboard in total. It has been slowly rusting away for six years.

UN-backed engineers have been prevented by Houthi rebels from inspecting the 45-year-old ship. They claim ownership of the ship and its cargo and have been using both as bargaining chips.

The UN has said that the plan has the backing of both the rebels and the coalition. The Houthis signed a memorandum of understanding on removing the oil from the Safer on March 5th, to be transferred to a secure vessel, and later a new tanker, ensuring the cargo could still be held and sold by the militia.

The FSO Safer would then be towed and scrapped, with the Houthis incurring no liability for the ship.

The oil needs to be removed before October; after that the wind and the currents would be too dangerous and would hinder any such operation.