The United Nations says it is “certain” it will soon raise enough money to launch a rescue operation for a decaying oil tanker moored off Yemen’s coast that is at risk of breaking up and causing an environmental disaster.
The FSO safer contains more than 1 million barrels of oil, and experts warn it could rupture or explode at any time, causing damage to habitats and livelihoods along the Red Sea coast that would cost an estimated $20 billion to repair.
As of early September, about $68 million had been pledged for the rescue operation — $12 million short of the U.N.’s goal of $80 million. The UN said it was “looking closely at how to reduce the cost of the emergency operation and installation of long-term replacement capacity for Safer.”
A UN spokesman said: “We are confident we will receive the target amount soon,” although they added “We still need donors to disburse the funds they have pledged.”
To date, only about $10 million of the $68 million has actually been handed over.
However, fundraising has picked up momentum over a year. In May, a pledging event in The Hague raised approximately $33 million from nine European governments, Qatar and the European Union. The following month, Saudi Arabia said it would give $10 million.
On a smaller scale, the public crowdfunding campaign launched in June raised about $145,000 from about 2,000 individuals.
Some private companies also started offering financial assistance. HSA Group, Yemen’s largest private company, announced a donation of $1.2 million on 25 August to support the UN FSO Safer Emergency Appeal, becoming the first private sector organization to contribute to the appeal.
“Given that there is still a large funding gap and time is running out, HSA believes that the private sector must step forward,” said HSA Executive Director Nabil Hayel Saeed Anam. “We hope that this first donation from the private sector can serve to encourage other companies around the world to contribute.”
So far this has not happened, although a UN spokesman said that “other private entities have indeed expressed an interest in contributing”.
Effort to ensure Saferthe load was on the drawing board years, but the Houthi rebel group, which controls the area where the vessel is anchored, has blocked access to the site. With a ceasefire now in place between the Houthis and the Yemeni government and its Saudi-led coalition partners, there is now some hope that the impasse can be broken.