UN struggles to fund Yemen oil tanker rescue operation

UN struggles to fund Yemen oil tanker rescue operation
Oil tanker, photo: Canva

The United Nations (UN) has fallen significantly short in raising the necessary funds for an operation to remove 1.1 million barrels of oil from am decaying oil tanker off the coast of Yemen and prevent an environmental catastrophe. 

The Safer tanker, anchored in the Red Sea, poses a significant risk to the surrounding environment, with the potential to spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska. The UN said the clean-up of a spill could cost $20 billion.

The Red Sea is full of coral reefs, mangroves and wildlife. Five of the seven surviving marine turtles live there: the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle, the loggerhead turtle, the olive ridley turtle and the leatherback turtle.

The ongoing war in Yemen has led to a suspension of maintenance operations on the Safer since 2015. The UN has repeatedly warned that the tanker’s structural integrity is severely compromised and is at risk of exploding. 

Deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq stated that the UN is confident a rescue operation could start by the end of May. However, the UN has struggled to raise the $129 million which is needed to remove the oil from the Safer and transfer it to a tanker, the Nautica, which the UN purchased for $55 million. 

So far, $99 million has been raised from governments, private donors, and crowdfunding. A UN event co-hosted by Britain and the Netherlands aimed to raise the remaining $29 million needed for the emergency phase, but only $5.6 million was pledged.

The Nautica was purchased by the UN in March and set sail from China in early April. The salvage operation cannot be funded by the sale of the oil, as its ownership remains unclear, the UN said.

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