A vessel is on its way to remove more than a million barrels of oil from the decaying super tanker in Yemen, the FSO Safer.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has stepped in to help prevent a catastrophic oil spill in the Red Sea.
The FSO Safer has been moored off Yemen’s west coast for more than three decades and has not been maintained since the country’s war began in 2015.
The UN has warned that the ship could cause ecological and humanitarian devastation if it leaks, breaks apart or explodes.
The FSO holds four times the amount of oil carried by the Exxon Valdez which caused one of the worst environmental disasters in US history when it spilled in 1989.
A major spill would devastate fishing communities on the Red Sea coast, expose whole communities to toxins and millions of people to polluted air.
From a financial perspective, the cost of clean-up alone is estimated at $20 billion (£16.7bn), with billions more potentially lost in global trade due to shipping disruptions.
The replacement vessel, known as a Very Large Crude Carrier, has been secured by the UNDP through an agreement with shipping company Euronav.
This vessel is currently undergoing modifications and regular maintenance before sailing to FSO Safer, expected to arrive in early May.
SMIT has been tasked with removing the oil safely and preparing the decaying ship for towing to a salvage yard.
The UN’s emergency plan has a budget of $129 million (£107m) but additional funding is needed to complete it, it stressed, announcing the re-launch of a 2021 crowdfunding appeal to help fill the gap.