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UN makes ‘major breakthrough’ to prevent oil spill in Yemen

UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) – The United Nations has bought a ship to remove oil and avoid a potentially catastrophic spill from a tanker that has been derelict for years off the coast of war-ravaged Yemen, officials said Thursday.

In an unusual move for a UN agency, the UN Development Program said it had signed a deal to buy a crude oil carrier from major tanker company Euronav that will go to Yemen to remove oil from the ailing FSO Safer.

The 47-year-old ship has not received maintenance since Yemen’s devastating civil war broke out in 2015 and was abandoned outside the rebel-held port of Hodeida, a critical gateway for supplies to the country, which relies heavily on foreign emergency aid.

UNDP chief Achim Steiner called the deal a “major breakthrough.”

The efforts will “avoid the risk of large-scale ecological and humanitarian catastrophe,” he told reporters at the UN headquarters.

Steiner said the ship will depart within the next month after undergoing routine maintenance in China.

“If everything goes according to plan, we hope that ship-to-ship transshipment will actually be operational in early May,” he said.

UN officials have raised fears the ship could collapse and trigger an oil spill that would seriously hamper foreign aid and cost around $20 billion to clean up.

The safer contains 1.1 million barrels of oil — four times the amount used in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, one of the world’s worst environmental disasters, according to the UN.

An ecological catastrophe could also clog the Bab al-Mandab straits between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and severely strain the global economy by delaying the Suez Canal.

– ‘No choice’ –

The United Nations had been looking for a solution for years and asked for a ship donation or lease.

It finally decided to buy the vessel, which is described as the only vessel available on the market, after finding no other option as prices in the shipping industry had skyrocketed over the past year due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Honestly, we had no choice but to buy a ship,” said David Gressly, who coordinates United Nations humanitarian aid in Yemen, via video link from Aden.

“Coming to this step is already a source of relief here in Yemen,” he said.

The salvage operation is valued at $129 million, according to the United Nations, of which $75 million has been received and another $20 million has been pledged.

Steiner warned that the United Nations could still suspend the operation if it doesn’t find the remaining funds.

“I have to say, I’m surprised that I have to sit here before you today,” he said, “still begging for these funds.”

The United States, which contributed $10 million, welcomed the UN announcement and called on other nations and private donors to fill the funding gap.

“It is critical that we close this funding gap now so that the UN can complete the emergency operation as quickly as possible,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Steiner described the plan as involving “very significant risks” and going beyond UNDP’s usual activities.

He said the United Nations would also find out where the oil was going.

“Let me be very clear – this is risky surgery and something could go wrong,” Steiner said.

“We have done everything we think possible to minimize these risks.

Yemen has been wracked by a devastating war since 2014 that has triggered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have seized much of the country and are battling an internationally recognized government backed by a deadly Saudi-led military campaign.

Gressly said the two sides are in dispute over who owns the oil, which has complicated the task of getting it out.

“Ultimately, it seemed like a better timeline for us to get the oil out and then deal with the still very desirable sale of the oil later,” he said.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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