Work set to begin on Red Sea spill threat from oil-laden vessel
The end may be in sight for preventing a Red Sea oil spill from a long-abandoned vessel off Yemen’s coast, with a new deal announced between the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Boskalis, a maritime services company that will lead the $148 million cleanup.
Work on the FSO Safer, moored off the Ras Isa peninsula since 1988, will begin in May. The vessel Ndeavor, owned by Boskalis subsidiary SMIT salvage, will begin transferring a million barrels of oil from the disabled and decaying ship in order to avoid a catastrophic spill that experts say could affect millions of people, including those living on the African coasts of the Red Sea.
A major spill would close the ports of Hodeidah and Saleef, as well as desalination plants used to produce safe water. Some 200,000 jobs in the fishing industry would be lost, with communities exposed to toxins and fish stocks taking 25 years to recover. Damage to mangroves, coral reefs and other marine life would be severe, with an estimated cleanup cost of $20 billion.
Experts have been working to avoid these impacts, as well as the possibility of global trade disruption through the Bab al-Mandab strait and Suez Canal.
“An enormous oil disaster is looming, which could have serious humanitarian, environmental and economic implications. But we now have a chance to prevent that disaster,” said Liesje Schreinemacher, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. “The Netherlands has worked hard to mobilize funds for the operation and now a major new step has been taken. It’s good that Dutch firm Boskalis is taking on a key role in the response.”
There’s still $29.4 million needed to complete the funding for the first phase and another $19 million needed for the second phase. The UN is planning an event on May 4 to help raise the funds, with those interested in donating encouraged to use an online crowdfunding platform at www.un.org/StopRedSeaSpill.
“UNDP and other partners inside and outside the UN should be proud of their roles in getting us this far,” said David Gressly, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, who has led UN system-wide efforts on the Safer since 2021.
“However, we urgently need to close the $29 million funding gap for the emergency operation and raise the additional funds needed to ensure safe long-term storage of the oil.”
Image: UN Yemen