UN Raises a Third of the Money Needed to Remove Oil from FSO Safer
United Nations officials said on Wednesday, May 11, that they have now raised more than $39 million in funding for their efforts to transfer the oil stored on the decaying FSO Safer and prevent a potential environmental disaster near Yemen and the Red Sea. The funding commitments came as the government of the Netherlands and the UN co-hosted a pledging event in the Hague.
The UN, however, is far short of its goal of raising $144 million to implement the plan it agreed to with both the government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels that control the region in western Yemen where the vessel has been anchored for more than 30 years. In statements after the conference, the UN said it is hopeful for additional funding in the coming days. Among the nations committing to fund the effort are the Netherlands, Germany, Britain, Qatar, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Switzerland, and Luxembourg as well as the European Union. It was highlighted that many of the richest Arab nations, which have been supporting Yemen in the long-running civil war, did not make public pledges during the event but have privately indicated their support for the plan.
UN officials in March 2022 reached an agreement that calls for the approximately 1.1 million barrels of oil stored on the FSO Safer to be immediately transferred to a VLCC tanker that could be chartered for up to five years. UN officials point out that there has been limited maintenance to the Safer since 2015 and no offloading or proper venting of tanks since production ceased. With the limited information and access to the vessel, they believe that it is beyond maintenance and restoration and needs to be immediately retired.
Today at the #FSOSafer Pledging Conference, we received around US$38 million in funding to address the Red Sea's ticking time bomb. We are so thankful to our donors & are hopeful for additional funding in the coming days that will allow us to begin urgent action. #YemenCantWait pic.twitter.com/KQDw4i60lg— UNDP Yemen (@UNDPYemen) May 11, 2022
The plan estimated that it will require $80 million during the first phase of the project which would be overseen by the UN and independent salvage experts. The oil would remain in the control of the Houthi aboard the replacement vessel with the goal being to provide a replacement FSO. The Safer would remain anchored approximately 4.8 miles offshore southwest of the Ras Issa peninsula at the southern end of the Red Sea until the permanent replacement was commissioned. Then the UN plans to tow the Safer out for recycling with the funds raised helping to pay for the replacement operation.
The Netherlands is participating as a neutral country that has maintained contact with both sides in the civil war. The Dutch ambassador visited the area in April along with representatives of a Dutch salvage company but they were not provided access to the Safer.
While representatives of the Houthi rebels signed the agreement with the UN, they have continued to be critical of the effort. They have criticized the UN as slow to act. In their most recent communication, they said the UN was not providing an operational plan and again spoke of the need for maintenance on the FSO Safer.
UN officials have emphasized the risk to the Safer if the transfer of oil is not completed by September 2022. They said they fear the dangers of the strong winds and weather that traditionally begins in October and its effects on the rusting vessel.