The transfer of crude oil from the dilapidated tanker FSO Safer stranded off the coast of Yemen is expected to start early next week, a senior United Nations humanitarian official told the UN Security Council on Monday.

The Safer, carrying over 1.1 million barrels of oil, has been abandoned off Yemen’s Red Sea coast since 2015 amid the ongoing civil war. Due to a lack of maintenance, the vessel’s condition has deteriorated significantly, prompting fears of a potential environmental disaster.

The UN has warned that a major spill would devastate fishing communities on Yemen’s Red Sea coast, impacting the livelihoods of some 200,000 instantly. The cost of cleanup alone is estimated at $20 billion, while disruptions to shipping through the Bab al-Mandab strait to the Suez Canal could cost billions more in global trade losses every day.

According to David Gressly, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, the VLCC tanker Nautica is preparing to sail from Djibouti to moor alongside the Safer and start the transfer, which is estimated to take about two weeks. The tanker was purchased by UN Development Programme (UNDP), which is leading the UN-coordinated operation, from Belgian tanker company Euronav in April.

“The completion of the ship-to-ship transfer of the oil by the start of August will be a moment when the whole world can heave a sigh of relief,” Gressly said, adding that the “worst-case humanitarian, environmental, and economic catastrophe from a massive oil spill will have been prevented.”

More details: here.