UN Launches Operation to Prevent Environmental Catastrophe by Removing Decaying Super-tanker FSO Safer off Yemen’s Coast
The United Nations has embarked on a crucial operation aimed at averting a potential environmental disaster in the Red Sea. The operation involves the removal of 1.1 million barrels of oil from a decaying super-tanker, FSO Safer, which is moored off Yemen’s coast. The deteriorating condition of the vessel poses an imminent risk of explosion or breakup, threatening severe ecological damage to the region. With the assistance of a salvage vessel and a dedicated team of experts, the UN aims to transfer the oil to another tanker, Nautica, in an unprecedented effort to mitigate the impending catastrophe.
Also read – Yemeni leader meets with Saudi defense minister
The Urgent Need for Action
Recognizing the severity of the situation, the UN has rallied support and funding to tackle this critical issue. To date, the organization has successfully raised $114 million through donations from member states, private companies, and a crowdfunding campaign involving the general public. However, an additional $29 million is urgently required to safely moor the Nautica and tow the Safer to a recycling yard. The UN Development Programme Administrator, Achim Steiner, emphasized the significance of prevention and highlighted the potential costs of inaction, stating that immediate action could prevent a future disaster that may result in billions of dollars in damages.
The State of the FSO Safer
Originally constructed as a super-tanker in 1976, the FSO Safer was later converted into a floating storage and offloading facility for oil. It is currently stationed near Yemen’s Ras Isa oil terminal, under the control of the Houthi rebel movement. Since 2015, when maintenance operations were suspended due to the Yemeni conflict and the intervention of a Saudi-led coalition, the structural integrity of the vessel has significantly deteriorated. This deterioration poses a severe threat to the environment, requiring urgent intervention to avert a potential catastrophe.
The Environmental Risk
The FSO Safer holds approximately four times the amount of oil spilled during the infamous 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound, Alaska. A major spill in the Red Sea would have devastating consequences for marine life, coral reefs, and mangroves. It would also expose millions of people to highly polluted air, adversely affect fishing communities, force nearby ports to close, and disrupt shipping through the Suez Canal. The UN estimates that the clean-up costs alone would reach $20 billion, underlining the urgency of addressing the situation promptly.
The UN’s Critical Operation
With the arrival of the salvage support vessel Ndeavor, operated by Dutch company SMIT, at the site of the FSO Safer, the UN has achieved a crucial milestone in its mission. A team of experts will now work on making the Safer secure to enable the transfer of oil to the awaiting tanker, Nautica. The Nautica is expected to sail from Djibouti the following month. The operation’s success relies on the mobilization of additional funds to complete the safe mooring of the Nautica to an anchored loading buoy and the subsequent towing of the Safer to a recycling yard.
The UN’s initiative to remove the decaying super-tanker FSO Safer off Yemen’s Red Sea coast represents a vital step towards preventing an environmental catastrophe. The urgent need for action is underlined by the vessel’s deteriorating condition and the potential risks associated with a major oil spill. By securing funding and international support, the UN aims to mitigate the long-term damages that could result from inaction. This operation not only highlights the importance of prevention but also demonstrates the significance of collective efforts in safeguarding our environment and preserving ecosystems for future generations.