UN completes delicate operation to remove oil from stricken FSO off Yemen

On Friday evening, the United Nations successfully completed the transfer of oil from the FSO
Safer off Yemen’s Red Sea coast, preventing the immediate threat of a massive spill.

The Safer has been at risk of breaking up or exploding for years. A major spill from the vessel would have resulted in an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.

The cargo of oil aboard the FSO Safer has been pumped onto the replacement vessel MOST Yemen (formerly Nautica) in a ship-to-ship transfer that began on July 25, following preparations on site for the operation that began in May by salvage company SMIT. The UN Development Programme (UNDP), which contracted SMIT, is implementing the operation.

As much of the 1.14m barrels has been extracted as possible. However, less than 2% of the original oil cargo remains mixed in with sediment that will be removed during the final cleaning of the Safer.

UN secretary-general António Guterres said: “I welcome the news that the transfer of oil from the FSO Safer has been safely concluded today. The United Nations-led operation has prevented what could have been an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe on a colossal scale.”

The UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly, who has led UN system-wide efforts on the Safer since September 2021, said: “Today is a great milestone. A remarkable global coalition came together under the UN umbrella to prevent the worst-case scenario of a catastrophic oil spill in the Red Sea. We need to finish the work the UN started. The installation of a CALM buoy to which the replacement vessel will be safely tethered is the next crucial step.”

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