UN to ask donors for $80m to secure rusting Red Sea oil tanker

The UN will try to remove over a million barrels of oil on FSO Safer by raising $80 million from donors on Wednesday. (File/AFP)
The UN will try to remove over a million barrels of oil on FSO Safer by raising $80 million from donors on Wednesday. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 May 2022

UN to ask donors for $80m to secure rusting Red Sea oil tanker

UN to ask donors for $80m to secure rusting Red Sea oil tanker
  • FSO Safer left to decay amid Yemen’s civil war with 1.14 million barrels of oil left on board
  • Houthis, coalition agree to UN plan to transfer oil to safe ship in order to avert environmental disaster 

LONDON: The UN will try to remove over a million barrels of oil on a stranded supertanker off the coast of Yemen by raising $80 million from donors on Wednesday.

The decaying ship, the 376-meter-long FSO Safer, is thought to have around 1.14 million barrels stored aboard in total, and has been left to rust for six years amid the Yemeni civil war, after it was converted into a floating storage facility.

UN-backed engineers have been prevented from inspecting the 45-year-old ship by the Iran-backed Houthis, who currently control the capital, Sanaa, and who claim ownership of the ship and its cargo, using both as bargaining chips with the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, which backs the internationally recognized government. 

Fears abound that, should the ship begin to leak, or be hit with munitions as a result of the war, it could cause an unprecedented environmental disaster in the Red Sea, with the damage ruining diverse marine ecosystems and affecting the livelihoods of as many as 200,000 local fishermen.

The coasts of Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia could also be affected, and a spill would lead to significant disruption — and even the closure — of the Yemeni ports of Hodeidah and As Salif, which would massively hinder the country’s commercial activity and ability to receive  humanitarian aid.

A new scheme devised by UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly will see the UN attempt to raise $80 million from donors at a conference on Wednesday in a bid to avert such a disaster, which could cost upwards of $20 billion to clean up.

The UN claims the plan has the backing of both the rebels and the coalition, after the Houthis signed a memorandum of understanding on removing the oil from the Safer on March 5, to be transferred to a secure vessel, and later a new tanker, ensuring the cargo can still be held and sold by the militia. 

The FSO Safer will be towed and scrapped, with the Houthis incurring no liability for the ship.

The MoU was signed amid a general ceasefire in Yemen, the first for six years, after President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi stood down after 10 years in office, handing power over to the Presidential Leadership Council, led by Rashad Al-Alimi.

The timing of the ceasefire is critical for the future of the FSO Safer. Gressly said the supertanker was “rapidly decaying,” adding: “It is at imminent risk of spilling a massive amount of oil due to leakages or an explosion.”

Environmental activist group Greenpeace told the Observer newspaper the oil needed to be removed before October, “when the wind and the currents will be too dangerous and hinder any rescue operation.”

Doug Weir, research and policy director at the Conflict and Environment Observatory, told the Observer: “While some may question the $80 million price tag of the UN-mediated plan to address the threat posed by the FSO Safer, the costs of inaction — which start at $20 billion for managing the consequences of a catastrophic spill — are far, far greater. 

“The world has watched this situation grow more dangerous with every passing month, and it’s vital that donors provide the money that is needed to allow this urgent plan to proceed this summer.”


15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
Updated 55 min 49 sec ago

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
  • The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert

CAIRO: Libyan authorities said Saturday they found at least 15 migrants dead in the desert on the borders with Sudan, the latest tragedy involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe via perilous journeys through the conflict-wrecked nation.
The Department for Combating Irregular Migration in the southeastern city of Kufra said the migrants were on their way from Sudan to Libya when their vehicle broke down due to lack of fuel.
The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert. There were women and children among the migrants, but the agency did not elaborate on how many. It also did not reveal causes of the migrants’ death, but said they did not have enough food and water.
It said the migrants were all Sudanese — from a country in turmoil for years. The migrants likely attempted to reach western Libya in efforts to board trafficking boats to Europe.
The agency posted images on Facebook showing bodies purportedly of the dead migrants who were later burned in the desert.
The tragedy was the latest in Libya’s sprawling desert. In June, authorities in Kufra said they found the bodies of 20 migrants who they said died of thirst in the desert after their vehicle broke down close to the border with Chad.
Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and set off on risky sea voyages.


Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
Updated 13 August 2022

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
  • Secretary-General of the House of Representatives Ahmed Manaa invited Parliament’s 596 MPs to attend the meeting without disclosing further information

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt announced a Cabinet reshuffle Saturday to improve his administration's performance as it faces towering economic challenges stemming largely from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Cabinet shake-up, which was approved by parliament in an emergency session, affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries.
Also included in the reshuffle was the tourism portfolio, a key job at a time when Egypt is struggling to revive the lucrative sector decimated by years of turmoil, the pandemic and most recently the war in Europe.
The changes, however, didn’t affect key ministries including foreign, finance, defense and the interior, which is responsible for the police force.
El-Sisi said the shake-up came in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly. He said in a Facebook post that the changes aimed at “developing the governmental performance in some important files ... which contribute to protecting the state’s interests and capabilities.”
The new ministers are expected to be sworn in before el-Sissi later Saturday or early Sunday.
Egypt’s economy has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which rattled global markets and hiked oil and food prices across the world.


Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18
Updated 13 August 2022

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

CAIRO: A vehicle accident involving an overturned microbus in southern Egypt killed at least nine people and injured eight, authorities said Saturday.
The crash took place Friday when the passenger vehicle overturned following a tire blowout on a highway in Minya province 273 kilometers (170 miles) south of the capital Cairo, provincial authorities said in a statement.
The microbus, a sort of mass transit minivan, was transporting people from Sohag province to Cairo, the statement said.
Ambulances rushed to the site and moved the injured to hospitals in Minya, the statement added.
Deadly traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. The crashes and collisions are mostly caused by speeding, bad roads or poor enforcement of traffic laws.
Earlier this month, a microbus collided with a truck in Sohag, killing at least 17 people and injuring four others. In July, a passenger bus slammed into a parked trailer truck in Minya, leaving 23 dead and a least 30 wounded.


UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations
Updated 13 August 2022

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

DUBAI: The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, discussed on Friday with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, bilateral relations between their countries, the prospects for cooperation and ways to enhance them.

Both officials also reviewed the latest developments in the Ukraine, in addition to a number of regional and international issues of common interest, UAE state news agency WAM reported. 

During the phone call, Sheikh Abdullah praised the United Nations-backed agreement recently signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, which provides for the safe export of grain through the Black Sea to global markets.

He reiterated the UAE's commitment to support all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and reach a political settlement of the crisis.


Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
Updated 13 August 2022

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
  • Mohammad Marandi: ‘I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam’

Iran’s advisor to the nuclear negotiating team, Mohammad Marandi, said he will not be “shedding tears” over Salman Rushdie who was fatally stabbed on Friday at a literary event in New York state. 

“I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam,” Marandi said in a tweet following the incident. 

Salman Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after an Iranian fatwa ordered his killing, was on a ventilator and could lose an eye following the attack. The British author of “The Satanic Verses,” which sparked fury among some Muslims, had to be airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery following the attack.

Marandi also expressed his surprise at the timing of the attack on Rushdie, which followed Washington’s thwarting of an assassination attempt targeting the former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, calling it “odd.”

The Department of Justice charged an Iranian military operative on Wednesday with plotting to assassinate Bolton.