Why does the UN need crowdfunding to stop the world’s biggest oil spill?

A tanker off the coast of war-torn Yemen carrying 1.1m barrels of oil is at ‘imminent risk’ of breaking up. Experts place clean up costs at $20bn and warn of an unprecedented environmental catastrophe, but efforts to avert the disaster – priced at $80m – lack funding. 

The United Nations has launched a crowd-funding campaign to help pay for work to prevent what experts have suggested would be the biggest oil spill in history from taking place off the coast of Yemen. The organisation wants to bring in $5m through the campaign by the end of June. 

The FSO Safer is located five miles offshore of the conflict-torn country, which has been devastated by a civil war that began in 2014 and is still ongoing. The vessel was built in 1976, and has been used as a floating storage and off-loading unit for decades. As a result of the wider situation, the ageing ship has not been maintained and is slowly decaying, threatening to spill its cargo of around 1.1m barrels of oil into the Red Sea. 

Environment Journal first reported on the potential impact back in January, which would be catastrophic. The regional population – around 2m people – could face serious health complications, and around 8m may be left without access to fresh water. Estimates suggest 200,000 would lose their income as fisheries collapse, while the ports of Hodeidah and Saleef are likely to close, cutting supply lines for food and essential goods. 

The ecological results may dwarf the economy, with water, reefs, fish, mangroves and other vulnerable marine life at risk of being wiped out, and contamination likely to spread to beaches and into sediment. Overall, this would amount to the worst oil spill in history, with clean up costs reaching $20bn, dwarfing the $80m needed for preventative efforts. 

Despite this, efforts to encourage a multilateral response have so far fallen short of the funds needed. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia, which has led an intervention in the Yemeni war many see as exacerbating the humanitarian crisis, pledged $10m. Last month, the US and Netherlands issued a call for more countries and private sector actors to take urgent action, warning current plans to avert the spill will take months to complete, and delaying means the process is likely to last into October, when weather conditions significantly worsen, threatening the operation.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top