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Race Against Disaster: UN Mission to Avert Environmental Catastrophe

A mission conducted by the United Nations is currently in progress to extract oil from a deteriorating tanker located in the Red Sea, with authorities working urgently to prevent an environmental disaster.
The vessel in question is the FSO Safer, an aging ship of 47 years, which was abandoned off the coast of Yemen in 2015 due to the outbreak of civil war in the region. Holding a massive 1.14 million barrels of oil, it surpasses the amount spilled in 1989 by the Exxon Valdez in Alaska, which remains one of the most severe environmental catastrophes to date.
The salvage effort had been impossible for nearly ten years due to the ongoing war in Yemen. However, with a temporary reduction in hostilities, the U.N. seized the opportunity to undertake a high-stakes operation to avert the looming disaster.
Officials have warned that without intervention, the catastrophe is inevitable. After years of neglect, the FSO Safer is at risk of leaking due to corrosion in the highly saline Red Sea.
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that failure to take action could lead to potential explosions or the breaking apart of the vessel, causing severe damage to fishing communities, the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, and exposing entire communities to deadly toxins. The consequences could even extend to the critical shipping route of the Suez Canal, incurring a cleanup cost amounting to tens of billions of dollars.
The FSO Safer, originally built in Japan during the mid-1970s, has been stationary about five miles off Yemen's Red Sea coast since 1988, serving as a storage facility and export terminal before the conflict unfolded.
Repairing the tanker is no longer an option; surveys from as early as 2020 revealed seawater intrusion into the engine compartment, rendering the ship irreparable. Moreover, the ongoing war in Yemen adds to the risk, as any accidental ignition could trigger a catastrophic explosion, causing havoc to marine life and the surrounding population.
Controlling the region around the tanker are Yemen's Houthi rebels, who previously hindered any salvage operation. However, recent efforts to reduce tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have led to a period of relative calm, and in March, the Houthi rebels finally consented to allowing the U.N. to address the situation and defuse the environmental threat posed by the FSO Safer.
Given that the structural issues of the vessel cannot be resolved, the U.N. devised an alternative plan. They acquired a second vessel to extract the trapped oil from the FSO Safer, a process initiated this week and anticipated to last for 19 days.
Once the oil transfer is complete, the replacement vessel will be securely anchored on the coast, and the FSO Safer will be decommissioned.
Despite the ongoing conflict in Yemen and its dire consequences for the people, the head of the United Nations Development Programme, Achim Steiner, expressed hope that addressing the 47-year-old corroded tanker will eliminate a major threat not only to Yemen but also to the Red Sea and the surrounding countries in the region.
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  • Sarah Chabane

    45 w

    This is very important!

    • Peter Karanga

      45 w

      The UN's "Race Against Disaster" mission is a crucial step towards averting environmental catastrophe.

      • Joyce Waturu

        46 w

        Good job by UN.

        • Jengaj John

          46 w

          Inclusive development and poverty reduction are essential in reducing disasters.

          • George Kariuki

            46 w

            It's commendable that the United Nations has taken the lead in attempting to avert this disaster.

            • mercy nduta

              46 w

              Great way to cut risk of environmental disasters.

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