The FSO Safer was built as a supertanker in 1976 and converted a decade later into what is in effect a floating oil container.
The tanker was abandoned off the Red Sea port of Hudaydah after a civil war broke out in 2015. Prior to the conflict, it was used to store and export oil from fields around Ma’rib, but the fighting brought production, as well as maintenance of the vessel, to a halt.
The UN had repeatedly warned of the danger the decrepit tanker posed to Yemen and the wider region as it was at risk of leaking, breaking apart, or exploding, which would have resulted in catastrophic environmental and humanitarian consequences from the 1.14 million barrels on board.
Any potential oil spill would have forced the closure of all ports in the area alone, cutting off food, fuel, and other life-saving supplies to a country where more than 21 million people – 80 percent of the population – rely on aid.
Following two years of fundraising, including through a crowdfunding campaign, a UN salvage team began pumping oil from the FSO Safer onto a replacement vessel on 25 July – part of a two-track plan.
This followed preparations on-site by leading marine salvage company SMIT, a subsidiary of Boskalis, which began in May. The UN Development Programme (UNDP), which contracted SMIT, is implementing the operation.
“Today is a proud moment for the many people across the UN System as well as our donors and partners who have worked tirelessly over the past months and years to avert a disaster in a country already vulnerable following the protracted conflict,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.
“There is still work to be done, but today we can say with confidence that the immediate threat of a spill has been averted,” he added.
More details: here.