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UN supertanker sets sail to avert Red Sea spill

Building works over the sea as the sun sets on the horizon in the distance

A very large crude carrier (VLCC) has departed from Zhoushan, China on a mission to transfer around a million oil barrels from FSO Safer. FSO Safer is a supertanker that has been moored offshore of Yemen in the Red Sea since 1988.

The supertanker had been used by the Yemini government as an unpropelled storage vessel, but since 2015, it has not been adequately maintained due to the Yemini Civil War. The UN has warned in recent years that the vessel is at risk of breaking up or exploding, which would lead to an oil spill that would have catastrophic consequences for the region. It therefore proposed a coordinated project to remove the crude oil from the vessel.

The project has received financial backing from many UN member states, as well as private organisations like HSA Group and the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers, which represents many well-known oil companies, such as BP, the maker of the Castrol lubricant range. Nevertheless, the UN says that the war in Ukraine has led to an increase in the cost of VLCCs, and this:

“…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 Development Programme secured the Nautica, which will be retrieving the oil, last month. It should arrive at FSO Safe early in May.

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