The United Nations has initiated an online crowdfunding campaign to raise funds needed to prevent a significant “environmental, humanitarian and economic catastrophe” off Yemen’s Red Sea coast.
David Gressly, the UN’s lead coordinator for Yemen, pleaded for help to defuse what environmental activists are calling “a ticking time bomb” — a gigantic tanker full of crude oil that is slowly decaying.
The objective is to raise $80 million for an emergency operation to transfer petroleum from the tanker, the FSO Safer, to a provisional vessel. Containing more than a million barrels of oil, the ship is beyond repair and could soon break apart or explode. the UN told The AP.
In an online briefing, Gressly explained, “We’re trying to get to this $80m figure by the end of this month. It’s doable, but it’s going to take a push, and that’s why we’re calling on the public to help us to cross the finish line.”
Among the largest tankers in the world, the SFO Safer is 376 meters long and holds approximately four times the crude oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.
The UN calculates that the first stage of the operation will cost about $80 million, with an extra $64 million required for the second stage.
“$20m is really not much when you look at the overall cost that this catastrophe would have. If indeed there were a spill, the estimates that we’ve received on the clean-up alone would be $20 billion,” Gressley said.
He also cautioned that the FSO Safer’s level of decay means a disaster is “not just a probability or possibility, but a certainty if we do not act.”
The FSO Safer was completed in 1976 as a supertanker but was recast as a floating storage unit for oil. It has been anchored just a few miles off the Yemeni coast near the Ras Isa oil terminal for over three decades.
The ongoing Yemeni Civil War between the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi-led Yemeni government and the Houthi armed movement resulted in the maintenance of the vessel grinding to a halt in 2015. The Houthi rebels currently control the ship.