September 23 ------ Dutch officials are reporting that they are making an additional financial contribution to the UN’s effort to remediate the danger from the FSO Safer positioned off Yemen. The UN has been struggling for months to raise an initial $80 million needed to pump the approximately 1 million barrels of oil stored on the decaying Safer to an alternate storage vessel. The larger plan ultimately calls for the purchase of a permanent replacement and scrapping of the Safer.
In announcing a second contribution to the effort of €7.5 million, Liesje Schreinemacher, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation said they believe the initial funding target has now been reached. In a Tweet, she wrote, “We have now reached the amount needed to start the salvage operation and we can prevent a severe disaster from happening.” The Netherlands through its ambassador and envoys helped to organize the arrangement and support the fundraising drive. In the spring, they pledged an earlier €7.5 million contribution to the effort. Others including Canada, the U.S. and Middle Eastern countries all pledged to the effort and recently Yemen's largest private company also pledged. In addition, the UN attempted a GoFundMe program to involve the public.
The UN launched the fundraising effort in the spring and although they received vocal support from many countries most were slow to pledge and even slower to contribute the pledged amounts. In August, a UN spokesperson said they had reached the 75 percent mark, or more than $60 million, but that less than a tenth of the monies had been received by the UN. Ms. Schreinemacher highlighted that in addition to financial support that companies in the Netherlands are also providing technical support to the project. “Dutch companies are world leaders when it comes to conducting complex maritime salvage operations,” the Dutch government announcement noted. They expressed the hope that Smit Salvage, which has been advising the UN, and other Dutch salvage experts would continue to be involved in the project.
The UN had hoped to have the work underway by now while weather conditions are more favorable in the Red Sea region where the vessel is located. David Gressly, the UN’s coordinator for Yemen told the trade publication Energy Mix last month that work could start between October and December despite the more difficult weather conditions. The delays continue to be the shortfall versus the financial target and the delay in turning the pledges into actual contributions. Ms. Schreinemacher reports that The Netherlands, the U.S., and Germany are organizing a meeting on Wednesday, September 21 during this week’s UN General Assembly in New York. With other partners, she said they will review the necessary next steps and the plan for the implementation of the work.
Reaching the first financial target would mark a major milestone for the UN which has been focusing on the FSO Safer warning that a failure of the ship could lead to a catastrophic oil spill. Nearly two years ago, the UN announced a tentative deal with the rebels controlling the region where the vessel is located but the deal collapsed over security concerns for the inspection team and a disagreement over what would be done during the first trip to the vessel. More recently, the UN has said it believes the FSO Safer is now beyond repair requiring a temporary replacement to offload and store the oil while a second round of fundraising proceeds to provide for a permanent replacement.