UN has cash for Safer salvage but finding a replacement vessel is proving a challenge

UN has cash for Safer salvage but finding a replacement vessel is proving a challenge
More than 17 countries have contributed to the funds needed for the first phase of the salvage operation, including Saudi Arabia, which donated $10 million. (Photo/UN)
Short Url
Updated 18 January 2023

UN has cash for Safer salvage but finding a replacement vessel is proving a challenge

UN has cash for Safer salvage but finding a replacement vessel is proving a challenge
  • Spokesman Farhan Haq said that suitable oil tankers have become harder to find and more expensive because of the war in Ukraine
  • The Safer, which contains more than 1.14 million barrels of oil, has been moored in the Red Sea since 2015 with little or no maintenance

NEW YORK CITY: The UN is “closer than ever” to beginning the first phase of the salvage operation on the decaying Safer oil tanker off the coast of Yemen.

However, as a result of the war in Ukraine, it has become harder and more expensive to find and hire a replacement oil tanker, posing yet another challenge for the long-delayed operation.

“Donors have generously pledged more than $84 million of the funding required for the UN-coordinated plan to prevent a major oil spill from the Safer,” UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Tuesday. “Additional funding from the private sector is expected soon.”

The vessel, which contains more than 1.14 million barrels of oil, has been moored in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen for more than seven years. During that time it has had little or no maintenance and its condition has deteriorated to a point where there are growing fears of a catastrophic oil spill.

The planned salvage operation to make it safe has been split into two phases. First, the oil will be transferred from the tanker to another vessel, then moved to a permanent storage facility until the political situation in Yemen allows for it to be sold or transported elsewhere.

Haq said that with $73 million of pledges now received, the UN has been able to begin “essential preparatory work.”

“All of the technical expertise is in place to undertake the procurement for the complex operation,” he said. “This includes a marine management consultancy firm, maritime legal firm, insurance and ship brokers and oil spill experts.

“The contracting of the salvage company that will carry out the emergency operation is at an advanced stage.”

The key challenge now, Haq said, is procuring the use of a large enough oil tanker because “the UN cannot begin the emergency operation until it is certain that a safe crude carrier will be in place to take on the oil.”

However, the availability of suitable ships has decreased in the past six months and prices have doubled since the budget for the operation was prepared, “basically due to events having to do with the war in Ukraine,” he explained.

“So just as we were gearing up for operations, the cost to both lease and purchase this type of a vessel increased. So a very large crude carrier now costs at about 50 percent more than what’s budgeted in the original plan. So we have some additional expenses and it’s a little bit harder finding the right ships but we’re proceeding with the work.

“The UN is working expeditiously with a maritime broker and other partners to find a workable solution and remains confident the work can begin in the coming months.”

If the Safer breaks up and the oil spills into the Red Sea, the clean-up operation could cost an estimated $30 billion. The environmental disaster would affect not only Yemen but neighboring countries including Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia. In addition, fisheries would be damaged and shipping disrupted.

More than 17 countries have contributed to the funds needed for the first phase of the salvage operation, including Saudi Arabia, which donated $10 million. There have also been contributions from the private sector, public foundations and a crowdfunding campaign set up by the UN. A donation of $7 million from the Netherlands late last year brought the total up to the initial target.

The Houthis control Yemen’s western Red Sea ports, including Ras Issa, close to which the Safer is moored. The UN had been negotiating with the rebel militias for several years in an attempt to gain access to the tanker for a proper inspection. Both sides signed a memorandum of understanding in March last year, which authorized a four-month emergency operation to eliminate the immediate threat by transferring the oil to another vessel.

On Monday, France announced an additional contribution of €1 million ($1.08 million) to the UN salvage fund.

Alexandre Olmedo, deputy political coordinator of France to the UN, said he hopes the first phase of the operation can be “quickly implemented to avoid an ecological disaster.”

“We also call on the Houthis, who are currently in control of the vessel, to fully cooperate with the UN in the implementation of the rescue plan,” he said.


At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake
Updated 10 sec ago

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake
  • The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said it could not verify whether prisoners had escaped, but confirmed there was a mutiny

AZAZ: Prisoners mutinied in a northwestern Syria prison Monday following a deadly earthquake, with at least 20 escaping the jail holding mostly Daesh group members, a source at the facility told AFP.
The military police prison in the town of Rajo near the Turkish border holds about 2,000 inmates, with about 1,300 of them suspected to be Daesh fighters, said the source.
The prison also holds fighters from Kurdish-led forces.
“After the earthquake struck, Rajo was affected and inmates started to mutiny and took control of parts of the prison,” said the official at Rajo jail, which is controlled by pro-Turkish factions.
“About 20 prisoners fled... who are believed to be Daesh militants.”
The 7.8-magnitude quake — which was followed by dozens of aftershocks in the region — caused damage to the prison, with walls and doors cracking, the source added.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said it could not verify whether prisoners had escaped, but confirmed there was a mutiny.
At least 1,444 people died Monday across Syria after the devastating earthquake that had its epicenter in southwestern Turkiye, the government and rescuers said.
In rebel-held parts of the country’s northwest, at least 733 people were killed and more than 2,100 injured, according to the White Helmets rescue group.
The incident in Rajo comes on the heels of an Daesh attack in December on a security complex in their former de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa, which aimed to free fellow terrorists from a prison there.
Six members of the Kurdish-led security forces that control the area were killed in the foiled assault.
The conflict in Syria started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful protests and escalated to pull in foreign powers and global jihadists.
Nearly half a million people have been killed, and the conflict has forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes, with many seeking refuge in Turkiye.

 


Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
Updated 47 min 36 sec ago

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
  • Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime

PARIS: Benjamin Briere, a French national held in Iran, has gone on hunger strike for the second time since his incarceration in May 2020, his sister and his lawyer said Monday.
Briere, who was sentenced to eight years in jail for espionage, is one of seven French and more than two dozen foreign nationals who campaigners say Iran has jailed in a strategy of hostage-taking to extract concessions from the West.
Held in the prison of Vakilabad in the eastern city of Mashhad, he had already gone on hunger strike once before, at the end of December 2021.
“It’s the only weapon he has,” his sister Blandine Briere said in a statement.
He stopped eating on January 28, she said.
Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime.
Briere, the lawyer said, is “mentally and physically exhausted” in the “gloomy” prison which he said was known for frequent “extra-judicial executions” of inmates.
Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, the second of four people executed over the protests, was held in Mashhad and hanged in public in the city on December 12.
The conditions of Briere’s incarceration were “exceptionally harsh,” and he was being denied his rights, Valent said.
Iran needed to be held accountable for the danger to Briere’s “physical and mental wellbeing,” the lawyer said.
Another detainee in Iran, 64-year-old Franco-Irish citizen Bernard Phelan held since October 1, last month suspended a hunger strike that included refusing water, at the request of his family who feared for his life.
Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant was arrested while traveling and is being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran.
Iran accuses him of anti-government propaganda, a charge he has denied.
 

 


Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
Updated 07 February 2023

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
  • Participants in the two-day Global Game Jam were tasked with designing a video game based on a theme revealed during the opening ceremony

AMMAN: The Jordan Gaming Lab, a project developed by the King Abdullah II Fund for Development, hosted a free, video game development event at several locations across the country. The two-day Global Game Jam took place over the weekend at the lab’s branches in Amman, Zarqa and Aqaba.

The participants were tasked with creating a video game based on a theme that was revealed during the opening ceremony for the event. Sixteen games were produced and uploaded to the GGJ website.

The aim of the challenge was to provide participants with hands-on experience of working with advanced technologies, while taking advantage of help and advice from professional game designers from around the world.

The Jordan Gaming Lab was launched in 2011 to help boost the country’s video game industry and provide networking opportunities for those interested in being a part of it.

 


Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
Updated 07 February 2023

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
  • By the end of the 5-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will comprise hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles
  • The plan is in line with the goal of the Roads and Transport Authority to ensure public transportation is emissions-free by 2050

DUBAI: Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has endorsed a plan to make all taxis in the emirate environmentally friendly by 2027.

Under the five-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will complete the switch to fully hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, the Emirates News Agency reported on Monday. This is in line with the authority’s goal of ensuring that public transportation is emissions-free by 2050. The RTA has already replaced 72 percent of Dubai taxis with hybrid vehicles.

“The results of experiments on eco-friendly vehicles, which RTA started trialing in 2008, confirmed the environmental benefits of reducing carbon emissions, fuel consumption and maintenance costs, as well as decreasing noise levels,” the authority’s director-general, Mattar Al-Tayer, said.

“Hybrid vehicles also have a longer lifespan compared with regular vehicles and cost less in the long run. They are characterized by lower purchase prices, maintenance fees, fuel expenses, insurance premiums, and other associated costs that potentially could be as low as 50 percent of regular vehicles.”

The initial phase of the plan, in which 50 percent of Dubai’s taxi fleet was converted to eco-friendly vehicles, succeeded in reducing carbon emissions by up to 420,000 tons a year, the Emirates News Agency said.

 


Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets
  • Four have been referred to the Public Prosecution

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested four citizens found in possession of 63,443 amphetamine pills in the Eastern Region, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday. 

The pills had an estimated street value ranging from $630,000 to $1.8 million, according to figures published in the International Addiction Review journal.

The four have been referred to the Public Prosecution.