UN launches online campaign to bridge funding gap for Safer salvage work

UN launches online campaign to bridge funding gap for Safer salvage work
FSO Safer, the tanker holding 1.1 million barrels of crude oil in the Red Sea off Yemen. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 June 2022

UN launches online campaign to bridge funding gap for Safer salvage work

UN launches online campaign to bridge funding gap for Safer salvage work
  • Crowdfunding effort to make the oil tanker safe and prevent a catastrophic spill in the Red Sea
  • Saudi Arabia earlier pledged $10 million for the operation

NEW YORK: The UN on Monday launched a social media campaign to raise money to bridge the gap in funding for a salvage operation to prevent a potentially devastating oil spill in the Red Sea from the decaying tanker FSO Safer.

The vessel, which contains 48 million gallons of oil, has been moored off the west cost of Yemen since the start of the war in the country seven years ago.

It has had little or no maintenance during that time and its condition has deteriorated, raising growing fears that a disaster is imminent that could cause the world’s fifth-largest oil spill from a tanker.

The UN is seeking $144 million in donations to fund the operation to make it safe, $80 million of which will be used to transfer the oil to another vessel.

“Following Saudi Arabia’s announcement of a $10 million pledge on June 12 and the US announcement that it is working toward a $10 million contribution, we now have three-quarters of the $80 million required to start the emergency phase of the operation,” said UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

David Gressly, the UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, announced the fundraiser in a message posted to his Twitter account. He said the goal is to raise $5 million by June 30 so that work on the vessel can begin in July.

The Safer, a floating storage and offloading terminal, is anchored close to the Yemeni port of Hodeidah.

The rusting vessel’s hull, equipment and systems have deteriorated so badly that there are growing fears it could spring a leak, catch fire or even explode, potentially causing an environmental disaster four times worse than the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989, which remains the world’s worst in terms of damage to the environment.

Since 2019, the UN has been calling on the Houthis to allow a team of experts to access the ship, assess its condition and conduct emergency repairs, warning that a leak would destroy the livelihoods of many Yemenis, damage marine life and disrupt deliveries of aid.

It could also disrupt commercial shipping in the Red Sea, which is one of the world’s busiest waterways and accounts for 10 percent of global trade.

Other countries along its coast could also be affected, including Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and Eritrea. In November last year, the Houthis agreed to grant access to the ship.

Early this month, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the permanent US representative to the UN, said: “We know what the consequences are, we know the danger that is there and we have encouraged others to contribute to the funding of this effort.

“But let’s be clear the problem with the Safer is the Houthis, who have not allowed even the UN or others (to access the ship and inspect it).”

She said the ultimate responsibility rests with the militia because: “We can get all the money in the world and if they don’t allow access then we’re still in the same place where we started. So it is a two-pronged effort to get this done.”

Asked by Arab News whether or not he feels confident the Houthis will stand by their agreement to allow UN experts to board the vessel, Dujarric said: “In Yemen, as everywhere else around the world, we take things one day at a time.

“But our understanding is that, yes, we will have the access to the ship, which is critical for us in order to avoid what we fear would be an ecological disaster.”

Meanwhile, Hans Grundberg, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, said he is expecting an imminent response from the Houthis to a proposal for the phased reopening of key roads in Taiz and other governorates.

“The UN proposal takes into consideration various concerns expressed by both sides during discussions that started in the Jordanian capital, Amman, last month,” said Dujarric.

Taiz governorate has been under siege since 2015, when the Houthis closed main routes and surrounded the city center, largely cutting it off from the rest of the country. The siege continues despite the recent extension of a truce between the militia and government forces.

“As with all elements of the truce, the opening of roads is a measure to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis, as well as to bring about some sense of normalization and facilitate freedom of movement for Yemeni civilians,” said Grundberg.


Oman police thwart attempt to smuggle 73kg of cannabis

Oman police thwart attempt to smuggle 73kg of cannabis
Updated 7 sec ago

Oman police thwart attempt to smuggle 73kg of cannabis

Oman police thwart attempt to smuggle 73kg of cannabis
  • Police authorities in Dhofar Governorate earlier arrested two people from the African continent after 13 kilograms of hashish were found in their possession

DUBAI: Police in Oman have foiled an attempt to smuggle a large haul of the drug cannabis into the country.

It is the latest in a number of seizures forming part of the government’s efforts to raise awareness and prevent the spread of controlled substances.

The General Department of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Control, in cooperation with the Coast Guard Police, arrested two people while they were unloading 73kg of cannabis on a beach in Muscat Governorate,” the Royal Oman Police said in its Twitter account, adding that legal proceedures were underway.

 

 

Police authorities in Dhofar Governorate earlier arrested two people from the African continent after 13 kilograms of hashish were found in their possession.

A forum in Dhofar earlier this week discussed the issue of controlled substances in Oman.

The event explored the types of substances being brought into the country, as well as the reasons for the use and the effects of their abuse, viewed from a social and family perspective.


US and Kuwait discuss enhancing global food security

US and Kuwait discuss enhancing global food security
Updated 8 min 29 sec ago

US and Kuwait discuss enhancing global food security

US and Kuwait discuss enhancing global food security

KUWAIT: The US Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Michele Sison met with Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah during an official state visit, Kuwait State Agency (KUNA) reported.

They explored ways to boost cooperation to enhance global food security and health sector.

They discussed bilateral ties and reviewed the latest regional and international developments of common interest.


Palestinian Authority to seek full membership at UN

Palestinian Authority to seek full membership at UN
Updated 11 August 2022

Palestinian Authority to seek full membership at UN

Palestinian Authority to seek full membership at UN
  • President Mahmoud Abbas to make the case for enhanced status at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23

RAMALLAH: Palestinian leaders have launched a new diplomatic drive to obtain full membership of the UN.

The campaign will culminate with a landmark speech by President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23, in which he will make the case for enhanced status.

“In the absence of a political path and hope for the Palestinians to end the occupation, they have no choice but to resort to the UN to enhance the status of Palestine as a state and the Palestinians as a people on their land under occupation,” Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem told Arab News on Wednesday.

The UN granted Palestine non-member observer state status at a historic vote in the General Assembly in November 2012, when 138 countries voted in favor, 9 opposed it, and 41 abstained. The resolution included “the hope that the Security Council will consider positively” accepting the request for full membership. Abbas submitted this in September 2011, but it fell in the Security Council because the US threatened to use its veto.

Fatah official Sabri Saidem told Arab News that France had encouraged the Palestinians to demand full membership of the UN, and Sweden and Ireland had expressed their unconditional support for the move. He said the Palestinians would now seek more Arab and international support.

UN membership was “a long-awaited entitlement, especially with the continued Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people, the failure of US President Joe Biden’s administration to implement its vision in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and double standards when it comes to Palestine and Ukraine," he said.

 

 


Heavy rains collapse 10 historic buildings in Yemeni capital

Heavy rains collapse 10 historic buildings in Yemeni capital
Updated 11 August 2022

Heavy rains collapse 10 historic buildings in Yemeni capital

Heavy rains collapse 10 historic buildings in Yemeni capital

SANAA, Yemen: Heavy rains lashing Yemen’s capital of Sanaa, which dates back to ancient times, have in recent days collapsed 10 buildings in the Old City, the country’s Houthi rebels said Wednesday.
At least 80 other buildings have been heavily damaged in the rains and are in need of urgent repairs, said the rebels, who have controlled Sanaa since the outbreak of Yemen’s civil war more than eight years ago.
The Old City of Sanaa is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the area believed to have been inhabited for more than 2 millennia. Its architecture is unique, with foundations and first stories built of stone, and subsequent stories out of brick — deemed to be some of the world’s first high-rises.
The buildings have red brick facades adorned with white gypsum molding in ornate patterns, drawings comparisons to gingerbread houses — a style that has come to symbolize Yemen’s capital. Many of the houses are still private homes and some are more than 500 years old.
In a statement, Abdullah Al-Kabsi, the culture minister in the Houthi administration, said the rebels are working with international organizations and seeking help in dealing with the destruction. There were no immediate reports of dead or injured from the collapses.
The houses had withstood centuries but this season’s intense rains have proved too much for the iconic structures. Bricks and wooden beams now make for massive piles of rubble in between still-standing structures.
The rains show no signs of letting up.
“I get scared when I hear the rain and pray to God because I am afraid that my house will collapse over me,” Youssef Al-Hadery, a resident of the Old City said.


Yemen has enough wheat for two-and-a-half months, document shows

Yemen has enough wheat for two-and-a-half months, document shows
Updated 10 August 2022

Yemen has enough wheat for two-and-a-half months, document shows

Yemen has enough wheat for two-and-a-half months, document shows
  • Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, and 45 percent of its wheat needs came from Ukraine and Russia
  • Importers are unable to store significant amounts of wheat due to infrastructure limitations at Yemeni ports

ADEN: Yemen has secured enough wheat to cover two-and-a-half months of consumption, a commerce ministry document dated Aug. 4 showed, as global disruptions and local currency instability risk deepening the war-torn country’s hunger crisis.
A review by the internationally recognized government in Aden showed 176,400 tons of wheat available — 70,400 stockpiled and 106,000 booked for August/September delivery — according to the document.
This is in addition to 32,300 tons of wheat available from the United Nations, which feeds some 13 million people a month in Yemen, the document showed.
Yemen is grappling with a dire humanitarian crisis that has left millions hungry in the seven-year conflict that divided the country and wrecked the economy. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, and 45 percent of its wheat needs came from Ukraine and Russia.
HSA Group, one of Yemen’s largest food conglomerates, said it had booked around 250,000 tons of wheat from Romania and France, sufficient to supply the market until mid-October, and that it is looking to secure a further 110,000 tons.
“Following the announcement of the Ukraine grain deal, we are currently looking to secure Ukrainian wheat for the Yemeni market if it remains affordable and accessible,” an HSA spokesperson, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
The United Nations and Turkey brokered a deal last month to restart exports from Ukraine, cut off since Russia’s February invasion, which could ease grain shortages that have driven up global prices. So far, however, there have not been any shipments of wheat.
Yemeni importers are unable to store significant amounts of wheat due to infrastructure limitations at Yemen ports and the country’s limited storage capacity, the HSA spokesperson said, and therefore the firm books new shipments every 2-3 weeks depending on availability and global prices.
Another issue facing importers is Yemen’s foreign reserves shortage and a serious devaluation of the currency in some parts of the country, where food price inflation has soared.
The Aden-based central bank has put in place an auction mechanism to ease access to foreign currency, but no import financing mechanism is currently in place to support the market.