Donor countries have pledged $33 million to help prevent the Safer oil tanker from unleashing a potentially catastrophic oil spill off the coast of Yemen.
The decaying 45-year-old oil tanker, long used as a floating storage platform and now abandoned off Hodeidah, is in "imminent" danger of breaking up, the UN warned on Monday.
"Today marks a strong launch of our efforts to ensure the project's success, including outreach to the private sector," said David Gressly, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.
"We need to work quickly to get the remaining funds to start the four-month operation in the weather window we have ahead of us," Gressly said in a statement after the conference, which was held behind closed doors in The Hague.
So far, a total of $40 million in funds have been collected to carry out the operation -- which organizers said was a mere pittance compared to the $20 billion it would cost to clean up a spill in the pristine waters of the Red Sea.
The hulking FSO Safer contains four times the amount of oil that was spilled by the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, one of the world's worst ecological catastrophes pristine Alaskan waters were devastated, the UN said.
The $79.6 million would fund the emergency part of a two-stage operation which would see the toxic cargo pumped from the FSO Safer to a temporary replacement vessel for the next 18 months.
Gressly has said a total of $144 million would be needed for the full operation, which would include making the decrepit tanker fully safe.
"Today has been an important step forward in eliminating the threat posed by the FSO Safer," Dutch trade and development cooperation minister Liesje Schreinemacher said.
"We will continue to support the UN in the month of May to gather the remaining funds needed," said Schreinemacher, with the Netherlands pledging almost $8 million.
Other countries pledging money were Britain, Germany, Finland, France, Luxembourg, Norway, Qatar, Sweden, Switzerland, and the European Union.
The FSO Safer has not been serviced since 2015.