Greenpeace sounded the alarm about the derelict oil tanker FSO Safer floating offshore of Yemen’s Hodeida governorate and urged the Arab League to convene an urgent meeting to avert the humanitarian and environmental threats it poses.
In a letter addressed to Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Greenpeace called on Arab foreign ministers to meet to fund a UN plan to address the threats posed by the decaying tanker.
With an estimate of 1.1 million barrels of oil onboard, there is a risk of a serious environmental and humanitarian disaster should the tanker explode or large amounts of oil spill into the sea.
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Executive Director at Greenpeace MENA Ghiwa Nakat said the organization called on Aboul Gheit to hold an urgent meeting of the Arab League member states to work on funding the plan to salvage the tanker “before it is too late.”
“It is deplorable that the Safer crisis has yet to be resolved due to the lack of financial support. Tragically, only one Arab state has so far contributed to the funding of the plan which has amounted so far to only half of the money needed,” Nakat said.
She also warned that if the threats posed by Safer are not resolved, the consequences of a possible disaster will be harsh as they will not only impact the environment but also people’s livelihoods and health.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia controls Yemen’s western Red Sea ports, including Ras Issa, 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from where the Safer tanker has been moored since the 1980s.
According to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press in June 2020, seawater had entered the engine compartment of the tanker, which has not been maintained for more than six years, causing damage to the pipelines and increasing the risk of sinking.
According to the AP report, experts said maintenance is no longer possible because the damage to the ship is irreversible.
Nakat noted that the amount needed to fund the plan, which is $80 million, is a “drop in the ocean” compared to the cost which Arab countries will bear in case of an oil spill and which is estimated at $20 billion.
In May, the United Nations said $144 million is needed to fund the salvage operation of Safer. This amount includes $80 million to transfer the crude oil from the tanker.
With The Associated Press
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