Transfer begins of 1.1 million barrels of oil from decaying Yemen tanker to avert catastrophic leak: UN

Transfer begins of 1.1 million barrels of oil from decaying Yemen tanker to avert catastrophic leak: UN

Operation will take 19 days, says UN official

By Betul Yuruk

UNITED NATIONS (AA) - The UN began a ship-to-ship transfer of more than 2 million barrels of crude oil Tuesday from a decaying vessel off the coast of war-torn Yemen, a move intended to avert a major oil leak.

Years of preparation for the salvage operation is a ''major milestone,'' Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Development Program, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

Steiner said pipes have been laid between the FSO Safer oil tanker and the replacement tanker, and the first gallons of oil have been pumped off.

''We need to keep working to defuse what remains a ticking time bomb and avoid what would be by far the worst oil spill of our era,'' UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a tweet.

The FSO Safer oil tanker is a floating storage and offloading unit, 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of the port of Hudaydah. It is used for storing and exporting oil coming from oilfields in the oil-rich central province of Marib.

Now under the control of Houthi rebels, the tanker has not undergone maintenance since 2015 and more than 1 million barrels of crude oil have been sitting in the decaying vessel in the Red Sea.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly said the operation will take 19 days.

Gressly said the UN raised $121 million for the operation including money borrowed from the UN's humanitarian budget, but $22 million is still needed.

Steiner said there have been discussions with the Houthis and the Yemeni government about the eventual sale of the oil but there is a lack of trust between the parties in a very complex setting in Yemen.

A major spill would devastate fishing communities on Yemen's Red Sea coast, likely instantly wiping out 200,000 livelihoods, according to the UNDP.

The cost of a cleanup of an oil spill is estimated at $20 billion.

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