Yemen faced an imminent oil disaster, but an unexpected hero emerged: crowdfunding. Discover how global unity prevented an environmental nightmare.
In a remarkable turn of events, a potential oil disaster in Yemen was prevented, not by governments or corporations, but by crowdfunding. The FSO Safer, an oil tanker floating in the Red Sea since 1988, became a focal point of concern when civil war erupted in Yemen in 2015. Abandoned by most of its crew, the tanker held a staggering 1.1 million barrels of oil.
By 2020, leaks in the engine room raised alarms about a potential spill, which could have resulted in a catastrophe releasing "four times more oil than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez off Alaska in 1989." With the situation escalating, the UN, describing it as a "ticking timebomb," turned to an unconventional solution: crowdfunding.
The urgency of the situation was underscored by the potential environmental and humanitarian impact. A spill could have devastated coastlines across Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and North Africa, affecting millions who rely on the region's fisheries and freshwater sources.
David Gressly, the UN’s coordinator for Yemen, played a pivotal role in the rescue efforts. He described the Safer as a "monster" and emphasized the challenges of navigating the political landscape amidst the ongoing war. Despite the complexities, in September 2022, both warring factions agreed on a plan to remove the oil. However, funding remained a significant hurdle.
According to The Guardian,
With the necessary funds in place, salvage teams swiftly acted. By August, the oil was safely transferred from the Safer to a new vessel, "the Yemen." The focus now shifts to the distribution of oil profits and the future of the FSO Safer, which is likely to be scrapped and recycled.
While the crisis was averted, questions linger about the role of major oil companies. Greenpeace highlighted that giants like TotalEnergies and Exxon likely own a share of the ship’s oil, yet their contributions seemed minimal compared to the global effort.
Gressly reflected on the ordeal, emphasizing the need for better preventive measures in the future. "Prevention is just not a thing that we do collectively," he noted, hoping that this incident serves as a wake-up call.
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