The United States and Netherlands have joined hands with the UN to “address and avert the economic, environmental, and humanitarian threats,” that the decaying tanker full of oil off the coast of Yemen poses, a joint statement issued by the governments said on Friday.
The statement was issued after Dutch Ambassador to the United States André Haspels met US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking, Yemeni Ambassador to the US Mohammed al-Hadrami, and other diplomats on Friday.
“The international community – private sector included – must take action now to address the imminent threats posed by the Safer,” the statement said.
They stressed the importance of raising $144 million to fund the salvage plan, which includes $80 million for an emergency operation to offload the oil from the Safer to a temporary vessel.
The statement said “nearly half the funds” required to avoid the effects of the sinking ship have been secured.
In a note of warning, however, the statement claimed that the ship is “unstable” and contains four times the amount of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
“It could leak, spill, or explode at any time, severely disrupting shipping routes in the Gulf region and other industries across the Red Sea region, unleashing an environmental disaster, and worsening the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
By October, high winds and volatile currents will make the UN operation more dangerous and increase the risk of the ship breaking apart,” the statement claimed.
In the event of a spill, the cleanup alone is reportedly expected to cost $20 billion.
The Iranian-backed Houthis control Yemen’s western Red Sea ports — including Ras Issa, just 6 kilometers (about 4 miles) from where the FSO Safer has been moored since the 1980s, AP reported.
The Houthis have criticized the UN for allegedly “not presenting an operational plan” to maintain the tanker, more than two months since they signed the memorandum of understanding, a statement that could complicate UN efforts to raise funds.
The organization has previously accused the Iranian-backed Houthis of delaying its maintenance plans.
The Japanese-built tanker was sold to the Yemeni government in the 1980s to store up to three million barrels of export oil pumped from fields of Marib province. The ship is 360 meters (1,181 feet) long with 34 storage tanks.