Though the UN operation has averted the immediate threat of an environmental disaster, a second step is still required to clean and scrap the vessel.
The United Nations claimed on Friday that it had finished the removal of around one million barrels of oil from a deteriorating tanker stranded off the coast of Yemen. “It is a major moment of having averted a potentially catastrophic disaster,” Achim Steiner, administrator of the UN’s Development Programme, which oversaw efforts to salvage the oil, said via Reuters.
For years, UN officials and activist organizations have warned that the deteriorating Safer vessel off Yemen’s Red Sea coast was at risk of rupturing or exploding, with serious humanitarian and environmental consequences for the whole Red Sea shoreline.
The cargo ship, which has been stranded off the coast of Yemen for more than 30 years, has been neglected since the early phases of the war on Yemen, which began in late 2014. Steiner added that “It was literally until the last minutes that we looked at this operation as one that had to ensure the highest degree of preparedness of risk mitigation,” according to the report.
The UN official recounted how the organization gathered more than $120 million to fund the operation, which also necessitated the acquisition of a second ship to transfer the petroleum and mitigation operations on standby in the case of a spill.
The salvage crew took 18 days to finish the oil transfer in a sea mine-infested coastal zone, operating in hot summer temperatures and heavy currents.
Steiner said that “The best end to the story will be when that oil actually is sold and leaves the region altogether,” adding that both sides had blamed each other for obstructing efforts to safely remove the oil.
However, there is still no concrete indication of how an oil transaction will be handled. According to Reuters.
The United Nations on July 18 handed over the vessel that will take on board oil from the decaying tanker in the Red Sea off Yemen, an operation aimed at averting an environmental catastrophe.
The handover ceremony took place aboard the Nautica, which is being renamed Yemen, in the presence of officials from the Sanaa government.
It is noteworthy that the FSO Safer has not been subject to maintenance work since the start of the Saudi coalition’s aggression on Yemen in 2015, which led to the erosion of its structure and the deterioration of its condition.
The oil tanker is anchored about 50 kilometers from the strategic port of Al-Hudaydah, which is a major gateway for shipments to the country, which relies heavily on foreign aid.
Last March, the Sanaa government and the United Nations signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the transfer of the tanker’s cargo to another vessel, after Sanaa expressed its disappointment with the UN for its disregard of its commitments to FSO Safer and its attempts to back out of the execution of the immediate maintenance agreement.
The Sanaa government had repeatedly warned of the catastrophic repercussions in the event the FSO Safer explodes, which may extend to the Suez Canal.