04 May 2023, 09:26

Yemen firm says oil sector must pay up to prevent spill

DUBAI, May 4, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Global energy firms should help fill a $29-million gap in funding to safely remove oil from an abandoned tanker off Yemen's coast, the war-ravaged country's largest private company said Thursday.

Hayel Saeed Anam Group (HSA), which in August contributed $1.2 million to a United Nations clean-up campaign, made the appeal hours before a virtual donor conference hosted by Britain and the Netherlands was due to kick off.

"The global business community has a stake in ensuring that this devastating crisis is averted -- particularly the oil sector," Nabil Hayel Saeed Anam, the company's managing director, said in a statement.

"The potential disruption to trade routes and supply chains would be extensive, inflicting long-term operational and economic challenges for companies across the world."

To prevent a damaging oil spill in the Red Sea, the UN Development Programme in March took the unprecedented step of purchasing its own supertanker to remove more than a million barrels of oil from the beleaguered FSO Safer.

The 47-year-old ship has not been serviced since Yemen's civil war broke out in 2015 and was left abandoned off the rebel-held port of Hodeida, a critical gateway for shipments into the country heavily dependent on foreign aid.

"A spill would affect communities across the whole of the Red Sea region that rely on trade and economic activity in the area for their livelihoods, including Sudan, which is already facing a crisis of its own," HSA said.

The cost of the UN operation is estimated at $148 million.

The first recovery phase will cost $129 million, of which $99.6 has already been pledged, according to the United Nations.

The world body estimates the second phase would cost a further $19 million.

Thursday's donor conference aims to secure full funding for both phases, the UN said.

The Safer's 1.1 million barrels contain four times as much oil as that spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska, one of the world's worst ecological catastrophes, according to the UN.