The UN told The Associated Press Monday that it has finally reached a pledge target to raise money to remove 1 million barrels of oil from the tanker, but it still needs to convince all donors to meet the pledges for the first, $75 million phase of the tanker. the operation.
No specific deadline has been announced for the start of the first phase, which will be carried out by a Dutch company, according to David Gressly, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.
In a press conference at the UN, Gressly said he was “confident” that by the end of September “there will be more than enough funds to complete the first round of contract necessary to proceed” with the operation.
Save the Children urged the international community to treat the tanker as “an international emergency”. It warned that turbulent winds and currents at sea in winter are likely to “make the oil transfer operation more dangerous and increase the risk of the ship breaking down”.
It said the tanker’s disintegration would have “disastrous humanitarian, environmental and economic consequences”. It said the livelihoods of Yemen’s fishing communities could be immediately wiped out if the tanker leaks or explodes.
The tanker is a Japanese-made vessel built in the 1970s and sold to the Yemeni government in the 1980s to store up to 3 million barrels of export oil pumped from fields in Marib, a province in eastern Yemen.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels control western Red Sea ports in Yemen, including Ras Issa, just 6 kilometers (about 4 miles) from where the Safer is moored, and the UN has been negotiating with the rebel group for years to try experts on the tanker to investigate.
Both sides signed a memorandum of understanding in March authorizing a four-month emergency operation to remove the imminent threat by transferring oil from the Safer tanker to another vessel. In the longer term, the MOU calls for the Safer tanker to be replaced with another vessel capable of carrying a comparable amount of oil within 18 months, which the UN says will cost $38 million
The AP reported in June 2020 that maintenance on the ship is no longer possible because the damage to the ship is irreversible, seawater has entered the engine compartment of the tanker, causing damage to the pipes and the risk of sinking. increases.
The obsolete tanker is 360 meters long with 34 storage tanks. It contains about four times the estimated amount of oil released in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster that devastated the Alaskan coast.
Yemen’s brutal civil war began in 2014, when the Houthis took Sanaa and much of North Yemen and forced the government into exile. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia entered the war in early 2015 to try to bring the internationally recognized government to power.
Both sides have observed a UN-brokered national ceasefire, which initially came into effect in early April and was extended twice, the second time to early October. Both sides reported ceasefire violations, but the ceasefire is the longest lull in fighting in the Yemen war, now in its eighth year.
The UN and Western governments have put pressure on the two sides and their foreign supporters, mainly Saudi Arabia and Iran, to extend the ceasefire and enter into talks to find a solution to the conflict.
The conflict has led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and has turned into a regional proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the years. More than 150,000 people have been killed, including more than 14,500 civilians.