The United Nations says it is “confident” that it will soon raise enough money to mount a rescue operation for a decaying oil tanker moored off the Yemeni coast which is at risk of breaking up, causing an environmental disaster.
The FSO Safer holds more than 1 million barrels of oil and experts warn it could break up or explode at any time, causing damage to habitats and livelihoods along the Red Sea coast that would cost an estimated $20 billion to put right.
As of early September, some $68 million had been pledged to the rescue operation – $12 million short of the UN’s $80 million target. The UN has said it is “looking closely at how to reduce costs of both the emergency operation and the installation of long-term replacement capacity for the Safer.”
A spokesperson for the UN said “We are confident that we will receive the target amount soon,” although they added “We still need donors to disburse the funds that they have pledged.”
To date, only around $10 million of the $68 million has actually been handed over.
Fundraising has though picked up momentum over the year. In May, a pledging event in The Hague raised some $33 million, from a combination of nine European governments, Qatar, and the European Union. The following month, Saudi Arabia said it would give $10 million.
On a smaller scale, a public crowdfunding campaign launched in June has raised some $145,000 from about 2,000 individuals.
Some private companies have also begun to step in to offer financial help. HSA Group, Yemen’s largest private company, announced on August 25 a $1.2 million donation to support the UN’s emergency FSO Safer appeal, becoming the first private sector organisation to donate to the appeal.
“Given that there remains a large funding shortfall, and time is running out, HSA believes that the private sector must step forward,” said HSA managing director Nabil Hayel Saeed Anam. “We hope that this first donation from the private sector may serve to encourage other companies across the world to contribute.”
As yet, that hasn’t happened, although the UN spokesperson said “other private entities have indeed shown interest in contributing.”
Efforts to secure the Safer’s cargo have been on the drawing board for years, but the Houthi rebel group which controls the area the vessel is moored in have blocked access to the site. With a truce 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.