UN announces major breakthrough agreement in plan to salvage at-risk oil storage platform in Red Sea

UN announces major breakthrough agreement in plan to salvage at-risk oil storage platform in Red Sea

Martin Griffiths, UN Deputy Chief for Humanitarian Affairs has announced that an “agreement in principle” has been reached with the parties in Yemen to transport the cargo of a deserted decaying oil tanker moored in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen to another ship.

“I am pleased to report recent progress in efforts to resolve the [FSO] Safer tanker issue, including an agreement in principle to a UN-coordinated proposal to shift the oil to another ship,” Martin Griffiths said during a Security Council meeting on Tuesday.

He gave no further details about the operation or when the transfer might take place.

Ten days earlier, the United Nations had referred to “positive discussions” in order to find an urgent solution to the tanker, which haas been abandoned and lacking urgent repairs since the beginning of the Saudi invasion in 2015, in order to avoid its cargo leaking into the water and causing a major environmental disaster.

The FSO Safer, which was manufactured 45 years ago and used as a floating oil storage platform, is loaded with about 1.1 million barrels of crude oil, estimated to cost about $40 million.

It has not been maintained since 2015, eroding its structure and deteriorating its condition, and has been floating off the port of Hodeidah, six kilometres off the Yemeni coast. The Yemeni National Salvation Government in Sana’a has been unable to properly maintain the vessel due to the Saudi-imposed blockade.

A potential oil spill in the Safer would severely damage the Red Sea ecosystems and shut down the port of Hodeidah for several months, exposing more than 8.4 million people to high levels of pollution, according to independent studies.

According to environmental group Greenpeace, an oil spill would prevent access to Yemen’s main ports of Hodeidah and Salif and adversely affect food aid supplies for up to 8.4 million people.

Coastal countries including Djibouti, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia could also be affected, in addition to most commercial maritime traffic in the Red Sea.