An 8-year-old "time bomb".. The United Nations begins the rescue operation of the tanker "Safer" off the coast of Yemen


The United Nations announced that a giant tanker dedicated to removing oil from a stranded ship off the Yemeni coast sailed from China on Thursday en route to Yemen, describing it as an "important" step in efforts to prevent a major spill.

Last March, the United Nations Development Program bought the tanker "Nautica" to remove more than a million barrels of oil from the stranded ship "FSO Safer".

This was an unusual step taken by the UN organization, and was welcomed as a major advance in efforts to avert a potentially catastrophic oil spill.

Since the outbreak of war in Yemen in 2015, Safer has been left deserted off the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah, an important gateway for shipments into a country that relies heavily on emergency foreign aid.

The United Nations Development Program said in a statement that the "Nautica" left the port after undergoing routine maintenance in Zhoushan, China.

A United Nations spokesman said the ship, which was bought by the major tanker company Euronav, is expected to reach its destination in early May and will stop on its way to make further technical adjustments.

"The departure of Nautica, and its voyage to the Red Sea, constitute an important next step in the complex process of withdrawing oil from Safer," said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.

He called for urgent contributions to finance the operation, which still has a gap of about $34 million in its $129 million budget. The United Nations has launched a crowdfunding page that aims to raise $500,000.

"We are in a race against time. I urge government leaders, corporate CEOs and anyone in a position to contribute, to come forward to support us in continuing to keep this process on track as it has quickly reached a critical point."

The statement cited "rising costs" for VLCCs such as Nautica due to the war in Ukraine.

"We have the best available technical expertise and political support from all sides," said David Gresley, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen. "We just need the last bit of funding this month to ensure success" and prevent "catastrophe," he added.

The Safer tanker's load of 1.1 million barrels of oil is 4 times what was leaked in the "Exxon Valdez" disaster in 1989, which is considered the worst environmental disaster in the world, according to the United Nations.

An environmental catastrophe could also close the Bab al-Mandab Strait between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, causing great damage to the global economy by closing the Suez Canal.

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