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.”


Syria cholera death toll rises to 29 — health ministry

Syria cholera death toll rises to 29 — health ministry
Updated 7 sec ago

Syria cholera death toll rises to 29 — health ministry

Syria cholera death toll rises to 29 — health ministry
AMMAN: A cholera outbreak in several regions of Syria has killed 29 people, the Syrian health ministry said on Monday in what the UN has called the worst outbreak in the war-torn country for years.
Rapid assessment testing confirmed 338 cases since the outbreak was first recorded last month, with the bulk of deaths and cases in the northern Aleppo province, the ministry said in a statement.
It said 230 cases were in Aleppo province where 25 people were confirmed dead. The rest were spread across the country.
The United Nations this month said the outbreak was believed be linked to irrigation of crops using contaminated water and people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates river which bisects Syria from the north to the east.
The highly contagious disease has also spread to the country’s Kurdish-held and opposition areas in north and northwestern Syria where millions have been displaced by the decade-old conflict, medical officials said.
Suspected cholera cases have risen to 2,092 in the northeast of Syria since the outbreak was announced this month, said the US-based International Rescue Committee (IRC) which operates in the northern region.
It said there were fears about significant under-reporting of cases.
The widespread destruction of national water infrastructure after more than a decade of war means much of the Syrian population is reliant on unsafe water sources.
Prior to the recent cholera outbreak, the water crisis had caused an increase in diseases such as diarrhea, malnutrition and skin conditions in the region, according to the World Health Organization.

Egypt to release new batch of 39 pretrial detainees: Presidential Pardon Committee  

Egypt to release new batch of 39 pretrial detainees: Presidential Pardon Committee  
Updated 13 min 30 sec ago

Egypt to release new batch of 39 pretrial detainees: Presidential Pardon Committee  

Egypt to release new batch of 39 pretrial detainees: Presidential Pardon Committee  
  • MP Tarek El-Khouly said the move was in cooperation with state authorities and the country’s Public Prosecution

DUBAI: Egypt has ordered the release of 39 pretrial detainees on Monday. 
MP Tarek El-Khouly, a member of the Presidential Pardon Committee, said the move was in cooperation with state authorities and the country’s Public Prosecution. 
Egypt’s Public Prosecution has ordered the release of hundreds of pretrial detainees in groups since May. 
This comes as the government and various political forces prepare for extensive national political dialogue that will focus on political, economic, and social issues. 
Since its inception in 2016, the committee has received the names of prisoners eligible for presidential pardon consideration from different parties and political forces, including the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), the parliament’s Human Rights Committee, as well as directly through its own official website.


Renewed militia clashes rock western Libya; 5 killed

Renewed militia clashes rock western Libya; 5 killed
Updated 46 min 6 sec ago

Renewed militia clashes rock western Libya; 5 killed

Renewed militia clashes rock western Libya; 5 killed
  • Along with the five who were killed, at least 13 other civilians were wounded

CAIRO: A new round of infighting between rogue militias in western Libya has killed at least five people, including a 10-year-old girl, health authorities said Monday, the latest bout of violence to rock the North African nation mired in decadelong chaos.
The fighting broke out on Sunday between rival militias in the western town of Zawiya, where armed groups — like in many other towns and cities in oil-rich Libya — are competing for influence.
Along with the five who were killed, at least 13 other civilians were wounded in the clashes that continued overnight, the Health Ministry’s emergency services said.
The fighting trapped dozens of families living in the area for hours, said Malek Merset, a spokesman for the emergency services. Local media reported that one militia fired at a member of its rivals, wounding a militiaman who was taken to hospital.
The violence was the latest between militias in western Libya. In August, clashes in the capital of Tripoli killed more than 30 people, one of the deadliest bouts of fighting in Libya in many months.
Libya was plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The oil-rich county has for years been split between rival administrations, each backed by rogue militias and foreign governments.
Libya is now split between two rival administrations. One is that of the government of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in Tripoli who refused to step down after Libya failed to hold elections last year. A second administration is led Prime Minister Fathy Bashagha who operates from the eastern city of Benghazi after failed efforts to install his government in the capital.


UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed to visit Oman

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed to visit Oman
Updated 26 September 2022

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed to visit Oman

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed to visit Oman
  • Reinforcing economic relations will be at the center of the visit

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan will visit Oman on Tuesday in his second state visit since assuming presidency in May.

The two-day visit comes in response to the invitation of Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, according to Emirates News Agency (WAM).

During the visit, both leaders will meet to explore opportunities for increased collaboration in several sectors including finance and industry, as well as review ways to empower youth for a better future for the two countries.  

Reinforcing economic relations will be at the center of the visit, said WAM.

Both leaders will review the recent developments in the Arab region and reflect on efforts made to achieve peace and prosperity.

“The visit will also cement the two nations’ shared vision for a secure and stable region that promotes sustainable development and supports a thriving economy,” read the WAM statement.

In a statement, Sayyid Ahmed Hilal Al Busaidi, Ambassador of Oman to the UAE, said the visit would strengthen business partnerships and increase investment opportunities.

He said the longstanding keenness of both countries to deepen relations have spurred growth in various fields, which can reflect positively on the wider region.

Al Busaidi also highlighted the significance of bilateral coordination at the political level through coordination and consultation about various regional and international issues.


Tunisians protest against poverty, high prices and food shortages

Tunisians protest against poverty, high prices and food shortages
Updated 26 September 2022

Tunisians protest against poverty, high prices and food shortages

Tunisians protest against poverty, high prices and food shortages
  • Tunisia seeks to secure an IMF loan to save public finances from collapse

TUNIS: Hundreds of Tunisians protested on Sunday night in a poor neighborhood in the capital against poverty, high prices and the shortage of some foodstuff, escalating pressure on the government of President Kais Saied, as the country suffers an economic and political crisis.
Tunisia is struggling to revive its public finances as discontent grows over inflation running at nearly 9 percent and a shortage of many food items in stores because the country cannot afford to pay for some imports.
The North African nation is also in the midst of a severe political crisis since Saied seized control of the executive power last year and dissolved parliament in a move his opponents called a coup.
In the poor Douar Hicher district in the capital, some protesters lifted loaves of bread in the air. Other chanted, “Where is Kais Saied?.” Angry youths burned wheels.
Protesters chanted “Jobs, freedom and national dignity,” and “We can’t support crazy price hikes,” “Where is sugar?.”
Food shortages are worsening in Tunisia with empty shelves in supermarkets and bakeries, adding to popular discontent at high prices of many Tunisians who spend hours searching for sugar, milk, butter, cooking oil and rice.
Videos on social media showed on Sunday dozens of customers scrambling to win a kilogram of sugar in market.
Tunisia, which is suffering its worst financial crisis, is seeking to secure an International Monetary Fund loan to save public finances from collapse.
The government raised this month the price of cooking gas cylinders by 14 percent for the first time in 12 years. It also raised fuel prices for the fourth time this year as part of a plan to reduce energy subsidies, a policy change sought by the IMF.