UN Raises $33 Million, Far Short of Target to Salvage Yemen Tanker

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cairo — 
A United Nations’ pledging conference raised $33 million on Wednesday, far short of funds needed for a salvage operation of a decaying tanker full of oil moored off the coast of Yemen, a ship whose demise could cause an environmental disaster.

The U.N. had originally sought $144 million — including $80 million to transfer the more than 1 million barrels of crude oil onboard the FSO Safer to storage within the next four months. The first phase of the salvage was planned to be completed by the end of September, otherwise the vessel could face turbulent winds that start in October, according to the U.N.

The U.N. said it now has a total of $40 million, including previously committed funds for the operation. The tanker has been moored off the Red Sea port of Ras Issa since the late 1980s. The port, on Yemen’s western coast, is controlled by the Iranian-backed rebels.

“We need to work quickly to get the remaining funds to start the four-month operation in the weather window we have ahead of us,” said David Gressly, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

Wednesday’s pledging conference, co-hosed by the U.N. and the Netherlands, came more than two months after the U.N. and the Houthi reached an agreement to transfer the tanker’s contents to another vessel. The agreement also includes a U.N. commitment to provide within 18 months a “replacement equivalent to the FSO Safer suitable for export.”

The Houthis on Tuesday criticized the U.N. for allegedly “not presenting an operational plan” to maintain the tanker, more than two months since they signed the memorandum of understanding, a statement that could complicate U.N. efforts to raise funds.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, however, said they have been proceeding according to an agreed-upon plan. He said the U.N. was trying to urgently offload the oil “before the FSO Safer tanker breaks up.”

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The pledges Wednesday all came from European countries and the wealthy Gulf nation of Qatar. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which lead a military coalition fighting the Houthis, did not announce pledges during the event.

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