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A supertanker has departed from China en route to the Yemeni coast to prevent a catastrophic oil spill from a decaying tanker that has sat there for years.
The very large crude carrier (VLCC) set sail from Zhoushan, China, on Thursday as part of a United Nations coordinated operation to remove more than one million barrels of oil from the decaying FSO Safer supertanker off Yemen’s Red Sea coast that threatens a humanitarian, environmental, and economic catastrophe, the United Nations said in a statement.
The rescue tanker, the Nautica, was secured last month by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and is expected to arrive at its final destination in early May.
The dangerous tanker, the Safer, has been moored off Yemen’s Ras Isa peninsula since 1988 and could explode or break up at any time, the UN said.
“We are in a race against time and I urge leaders in government, CEOs of corporations and any individual in a position to contribute to step forward and support us in keeping this operation, that is fast reaching a critical stage, on track,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.
Funding has yet to be secured, according to the UN.
“While the project has received significant international support, the spiraling cost for VLCCs, in a market affected by the war in Ukraine, and other factors, means more funding is needed to complete the emergency phase of the plan. As of 4 April, the UN had received firm commitments for $95 million. The total budget for this first phase is $129 million, leaving a gap of $34 million,” the UN said.
The UN has been warning for years that the tanker off the Yemeni coast could explode or sink, in warnings that an environmental disaster and potential disruption of oil shipping routes around the Red Sea is waiting to happen.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.