UN Begins Transporting Oil Off a Ship in Yemen to Avert Tragedy

UN Begins Transporting Oil Off a Ship in Yemen to Avert Tragedy

Posted on Sep 01, 2023 at 11:09 PM

In a monumental effort to prevent an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe, the United Nations has embarked on a historic mission to transport oil from a stranded vessel off the coast of Yemen. This operation, the first of its kind, aims to avert a potential disaster that could have far-reaching consequences for the region and the world. 

Here, we will delve into the details of this critical mission, the challenges it faces, and the significance of its success.


The FSO Safer's 30-Year Anchor

For over three decades, the FSO Safer has remained anchored on Yemen's west coast, approximately 4.8 nautical miles southwest of the Ras Issa peninsula. This vessel, laden with crude oil, has posed a significant threat to the environment and human livelihoods due to its deteriorating condition and the potential for a catastrophic oil spill.


Two Years of Preparation

The journey to commence this vital operation was a challenging one. It took nearly two years to secure the necessary funds and gain the agreement of all concerned parties to undertake this ambitious mission. The complexity of the task required meticulous planning and coordination.


The Salvage Efforts

The responsibility of pumping the oil from the FSO Safer falls upon the salvage firm SMIT. This round-the-clock endeavour began on 25 July 2023 at 10:45 AM local time and is expected to last for the next 19 days. The involvement of professionals specialising in marine oil spills, maritime law, insurance, and shipbroking underscores the complexity and importance of this task.


Massive Oil Transfer

Approximately 1.13 million barrels of crude oil are being transferred from the FSO Safer to a second tanker named "Yemen," formerly known as the "Nautica." The skilled staff involved in this operation has transported more than 120,000 barrels of oil to the new vessel. They are pumping oil at a rate ranging from 4,000 to 5,000 barrels per hour.


Environmental and Human Consequences

The potential consequences of a significant oil leak from the Safer are grave. According to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), such a leak would devastate large areas of the Red Sea's marine life. The head of the UN has cautioned that the cleanup alone would cost a staggering $20 billion and could disrupt shipping in the Suez Canal for weeks.

UN Begins Transporting Oil Off a Ship in Yemen to Avert Tragedy

Impact on Yemen

Yemen, a country where 80% of the population already relies on international aid, would be severely affected by an oil leak. It would lead to the closure of all local ports, preventing the country from receiving essential supplies such as food, gasoline, and other life-saving resources.


Operational Challenges

Several challenges threaten the success of this operation. The scorching summer heat in the region poses a risk to the personnel involved. Additionally, the ageing pipelines on the FSO Safer and the potential presence of sea mines in the nearby waters add complexity to the mission.


Unprecedented Oil Quantity

The FSO Safer is estimated to contain four times as much oil as the infamous Exxon Valdez, making it the fifth-largest potential tanker oil leak in history. The vessel's cessation of manufacturing and maintenance in 2015, amidst an eight-year conflict between a pro-government coalition led by Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels, is beyond repair.


UN-Brokered Settlement

The United Nations played a pivotal role in negotiating with Yemen's warring parties to reach a settlement and establish a framework for the oil recovery mission. The overarching goal is to remove the oil from Yemen's coast, hoping to deliver a successful outcome for the benefit of the Yemeni people.


In conclusion,

The UN's unprecedented mission to transport oil from the FSO Safer off the coast of Yemen is a critical endeavour with global implications. Its success is imperative to prevent an environmental catastrophe, protect marine life, and safeguard the well-being of the Yemeni people. The world watches with bated breath as the operation unfolds, hoping for a triumphant conclusion to this extraordinary effort.



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