The United Nations announced on Tuesday that it is prepared to begin salvage work on an oil ship with more than a million barrels of crude that is stuck off the coast of Yemen and poses a serious environmental concern.
“We’re very happy to be on site where we can start the work,” David Gressly, the UN coordinator for Yemen, said by videoconference from aboard a support vessel that has arrived at the stricken ship, the FSO Safer.
The UN has purchased a super-tanker as part of an unprecedented salvage plan to remove the oil from the ship in the Red Sea. According to Gressly, the actual pumping will begin in roughly 10 to 2 weeks.
The 47-year-old Safer was abandoned off the rebel-held port of Hodeida, a crucial entry point for cargo into a nation that is heavily reliant on foreign aid, after the civil war in Yemen broke out in 2015.
According to experts, there is a chance that the ship will explode, catch fire, or break apart.
According to the UN, the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska, one of the biggest ecological catastrophes in history, spilled four times as much oil than the Safer.
A company called SMIT Salvage has been contracted to carry out the salvage operation, which is expected to cost more than $140 million. It will tow away the empty tanker after pumping oil from the Safer to the Nautica, which is now controlled by the UN.
That’s considerably less expensive than the anticipated cost of cleaning up an oil leak, which would cost $20 billion.
However, the UN claims that it is still $29 million short on the extensive project.
The Ndeavor, a SMIT support vessel, arrived on Tuesday at the location fully laden. On Wednesday, the preparation work will start.
“With the arrival of the Ndeavor next to the FSO in the Red Sea, we truly have reached a critical milestone,” said Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Programme, which is in charge of the salvage operation.
“If all goes according to plan, somewhere in late June, early July, we might be in a position to say that that critical phase of the ship-to-ship transfer could be completed,” Steiner said.