(The Hague) Donor nations on Wednesday pledged $33 million to fund emergency operations to avert the threat of a “catastrophic” oil spill posed by an abandoned oil tanker off war-torn Yemen, organizers said.
The FSO Safer tanker contains the equivalent of just over a million barrels and is at risk of breaking, exploding or catching fire at any time, experts say. The UN estimates that $20 billion would be needed just for oil spill cleanup operations.
The UN had issued a new warning on Monday, warning the world of the “imminent” threat of an ecological and humanitarian disaster because of the poor condition of the FSO Safer, anchored off the strategic port of Hodeïda (west), in Red Sea.
But the 33 million dollars (31.3 million euros) promised at Wednesday’s donors’ conference in The Hague, organized by the United Nations and the Netherlands, fell short of the target of around 80 million to drain 1.1 million barrels of crude from FSO Safer.
About 45 years old, the FSO Safer has not been maintained since 2015, when Yemen is already plunged into one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world due to the war between the government and the Houthi rebels, who control the port of Hodeida.
“Today marks the strong launch of our efforts to ensure the success of the project, including outreach to the private sector,” said David Gressly, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.
“We need to work quickly to secure the remaining funds to start the four-month operation” that “ahead of us,” Gressly said in a statement after the conference, which was held behind closed doors.
In April, the UN called on international donors to quickly commit around $80 million to fund emergency operations. This amount includes the salvage, dismantling, rental of another vessel to store the oil, as well as personnel and maintenance costs.
“The operation will cost $80 million, and while that sounds like a lot of money, it’s far less than the subsidies governments give to oil companies,” the NGO Greenpeace said in a statement.
Furthermore, “the oil industry’s average 3-month profit ($7.3 billion) is more than 90 times the amount needed to rescue the Safer and to save people and the environment in the region of Red Sea,” Greenpeace added.
Mr. Gressly said a total of $144 million would be needed for the full operation, which would include bringing the tanker to full safety.
“Today was an important step in eliminating the threat posed by FSO Safer,” said Dutch Trade and Development Cooperation Minister Liesje Schreinemacher.
“We will continue to support the UN in May to raise the remaining funds needed,” Ms. Schreinemacher said, with the Netherlands pledging nearly $8 million.
The other countries that have pledged money are Great Britain, Germany, Finland, France, Luxembourg, Norway, Qatar, Sweden, Switzerland but also the European Union.