AL-MUKALLA: Hopes that an environmental disaster in the Red Sea can be averted have risen after a donation by the Netherlands toward defusing the threat posed by the stranded Safer oil tanker in Yemen.
The UN hopes to raise the remaining $12 million shortfall this week in the wake of the Dutch donation.
“We remain roughly $12 million short of the funding we need to begin the work. We are hopeful that we might get sufficient funds later this week,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general, told Arab News on Sunday.
Liesje Schreinemacher, Dutch minister of foreign trade and international cooperation, announced the €7.5 million ($7.51 million) donation for the proposed UN-sponsored salvage operation, filling an urgent funding gap that had previously delayed plans.
“With this contribution, we have now reached the amount needed to start the salvage operation and we can prevent a severe disaster from happening,” the Dutch minister said on Twitter.
With its cargo of more than 1.1 million barrels of oil, the tanker has been stranded off Hodeidah in western Yemen since early 2015, when international engineers fled the city following the Houthi militia takeover.
In recent years, the tanker has attracted international attention as rust slowly corrodes its hull, allowing water to leak inside.
Environmentalists from around the world have warned of a devastating ecological catastrophe in the Red Sea in the event of an oil leak, tanker collapse or explosion.
The first phase of the UN plan will involve emptying the tanker’s oil and selling it to generate funds for the second phase, which will involve replacing the aging tanker with a new vessel.
Yemeni officials say that the first phase of the plan is fully funded thanks to the Dutch donation, but that they do not know when it will begin.
Saudi Arabia donated $10 million to the UN crowdfunding campaign in June in order to contribute to the $80 million target needed to save the Red Sea from environmental disaster.
Yemeni officials have accused the Houthis of using the tanker to blackmail the government and the international community.
For several years, the Houthis have refused to allow UN experts to board the tanker to perform damage assessments.