The United Nations (UN) will commence work to extract 1.1 million barrels of oil from the Safer tanker off the coast of Yemen, following the arrival of a Boskalis/SMIT technical support vessel on 14 July. The UN has long warned of the danger of a spillage from the tanker, which could release four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. The conflict in Yemen has meant that maintenance work on the vessel has ceased since 2015, with its structural integrity reportedly at risk of causing an explosion. The $129m salvage operation has been funded through UN fundraising and crowdfunding, as ownership of the oil in the tanker remains unclear.
According to the UN, additional funds are still required to complete the offloading process of the oil onto a replacement tanker, the Nautica. The conflict in Yemen began in 2014 when Iran’s Houthi group ousted the government from Sanaa, with a Saudi-led coalition intervening in 2015 to restore government. Peace initiatives following a March 2021 agreement between Riyadh and Tehran to restore diplomatic ties have since gained momentum.