The UN seeks donations to prevent an abandoned oil tanker off the coast of Yemen from causing a catastrophe

Time is running against Yemen. Also from the Red Sea. 60 kilometers from the coast of the port city of Hodeida, located in the west of the country, there is a abandoned oil tanker. The war unleashed by Saudi Arabia in 2015 made it impossible to maintain this supertanker of the Yemen Oil and Gas Corporation, used to store crude oil. Today is a real time bomb.

“We urge immediate action, as every moment the ship is left unattended brings us dangerously close to an environmental and humanitarian disaster that will drastically aggravate the already serious humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” say nearly twenty human rights organizations – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch or the Yemeni entity Mwatana – in a joint statement.

The initiative formulated by these groups serves as support for the campaign launched in mid-June by the United Nations team in Yemen, which precisely raised the substance of the issue: need another 20 million dollars to cover the operation. “If we don’t act now, an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe will unfold off the coast of a country already devastated by seven years of war,” he warned.

The United Nations plan consists, on the one hand, of installing a long-term replacement ship in the next 18 months and, on the other, it plans to carry out “a four-month urgent operation to transfer the oil from the Safer to a safe temporary container,” explained the UN office in that country.

The donor meeting organized by the Government of the Netherlands and the United Nations last May in The Hague ended with a bitter taste: so far only 60 million dollars of the 80 million needed have been received to start the emergency operation.

With the aim of correcting this “financing deficit” and putting the plan into action urgently, the UN opened a crowdfunding allows “individual donations”. The goal is to raise five million dollars to “be able to start the emergency operation before it’s too late.”

Meanwhile, time is ticking. “The margin to carry out such an operation is extremely narrow. Starting in late September, strong winds and volatile currents would make the operation more dangerous emergency,” warned the United Nations.

According to the data handled by that body, the ship contains four times the amount of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989 in Alaska, which threatens to make it “the fifth largest oil spill from an oil tanker in history”.

“Increase your commitments”

“To donate 20 million dollars today to end the risk of explosion of the Safer oil tanker would avoid a catastrophe that will cost billions only in environmental cleanup costs”, express for their part the human rights organizations that are signatories of the international declaration, in which they urge the “donor” governments to increase their funding commitments “As much as is necessary to begin the salvage operation immediately.”

In this sense, they are “deeply concerned about the catastrophic long lasting environmental impacts that could result if the salvage operation does not begin immediately.

Not surprisingly, they stress that the destruction of the environment due to a spill “would have devastating economic consequences in the long term for the estimated 28 million people in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt and Djibouti who depend on these areas for their livelihoods.

The United Nations Environment Program already warned in 2020 that an oil spill from the ship could have a “serious and lasting environmental impact” in one of the most important deposits of biodiversity on the planet, which would imply the destruction of coastal wetlands, mangroves, seagrasses and coral reefs.

“Private Actors”

In Madrid, sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Public that “Spain is fully aware of the ecological problems posed by the grounding of the oil tanker Safer in Yemeni waters”. “We work at a European level to find the best way to solve the problem, both from a political point of view, with the Yemeni authorities, and financially,” they said.

Similarly, they pointed out that “in general terms, crowdfunding initiatives are typical of private actors.” “However, the Humanitarian Action Office plans to a contribution of 250,000 euros to the World Food Program for its program in Yemen,” they added.


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