Cairo, Sep 22 (EFE).- The United Nations Wednesday said it raised more than $77 million in donations to begin the salvage work on the supertanker abandoned for seven years off the Yemeni coast.
The 45-year-old rusting vessel has been anchored just a few miles off the Yemen coast for more than 30 years, but offloading and maintenance stopped in 2015 after the Yemen war began.
“The salvage of the ageing supertanker FSO Safer, off the Yemeni coast, can now begin,” a UN statement said.
Fears have grown that unless the vessel is secured, it could break apart, causing a devastating oil spill and other environmental damage.
It can also devastate the fragile economy of war-torn Yemen, triggering a humanitarian catastrophe.
The possible spill into the Red Sea could cause the worst ecological catastrophe of its kind.
It would not only devastate the fishing communities on the Yemeni coast but also impact Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia.
The vessel carries four times more oil than the Exxon Valdez supertanker, which caused one of the worst oil spills in Alaska waters in 1989.
The disaster off the Yemen coast can force the closure of the Yemeni ports of Al Hodeida and Salif, essential to supply food to some 19 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
According to the UN, cleaning up the spill could cost up to $20 billion.
Gressly said $38 million more were needed for phase two after initial commitments get converted into cash for the salvage operation.
The second phase involves the installation of a safe replacement capacity to secure the one million barrels of oil on board.
Gressly said the plan was to transfer the oil to a secure double-hulled vessel as a permanent storage solution until the political situation allows it to be sold or transported elsewhere.
The coordinator did not specify the date to begin the oil recovery operation, but he indicated that it should start “in a few weeks.” EFE