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American Hero Averts Environmental Catastrophe

An abandoned oil tanker off the coast of Yemen, loaded with more than a million barrels of crude oil, was on the brink of leaching its hazardous cargo into the Red Sea - until one heroic American orchestrated a last-ditch cleanup operation.


David Gressly with the FSO Safer in Yemen
David Gressly with the FSO Safer | UN | Released

Just successfully completed, the salvage operation almost certainly prevented a major environmental catastrophe because the knackered old tanker was 47 years old and had serious mechanical and structural risks.


David Gressly, a diplomat working for the United Nations, became a true hero after crowdfunding the millions of dollars needed for the operation - whilst taking advantage of a truce between warring factions in Yemen, where the FSO Safer was abandoned off shore when war broke out in 2015.


During a lull in hostilities, the race was on for Gressly to spearhead a hugely ambitious fundraiser to find $144 million to buy a new tanker, pay a salvage company to drain the oil and then bring the massive wreck to shore.


He knew that the amount of oil was greater - by far - than the barrels spilled in the Exxon Valdez tragedy, so Gressly, the UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, relentlessly pursued his search for funding over many months.


When government and private sector donations weren’t hitting his target, Gressly opened the fundraising to citizens of the world: anyone with a dollar to spare was invited to contribute. When the campaign reached $121 million in July this year, the UN's emergency humanitarian fund stepped in to provide a low-interest loan to cover the rest.


From there, work was handed over to a salvage company that eventually finished the cleanup operation in mid-August. Then, a brand new oil tanker weighed anchor alongside Safer to siphon off her oil before the old wreck was towed to Yemen’s shore for scuppering.


A truly remarkable tale of dogged determination. Thank you Mr Gressly!

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