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Race against time

Stop Red Sea oil spill

The United Nations is embarking on a complex and delicate operation to avert what could be one of the worst oil spills in human history.  

The FSO Safer supertanker, moored nine kilometres off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea, is a storage vessel carrying an estimated 1.14 million barrels of light crude.  

The ship is 47 years old. The conflict in Yemen means there has been no maintenance on it for seven years. Its structural integrity is compromised, and it is deteriorating rapidly. There is a serious risk the vessel could be struck by a floating mine, spontaneously explode or break apart at any moment.

“We are in a race against time, and I urge leaders in government, CEOs of corporations and any individual in a position to contribute to step forward and support us in keeping this operation, that is fast reaching a critical stage, on track.”
Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator

After months of preparation and coordination, the UN system and partners have begun a high-risk operation to secure the situation and prevent a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe. Tasked with coordinating the emergency phase of the operation, UNDP secured the Nautica, the replacement vessel where the millions of oil barrels from the decaying tanker will be transferred to, and contracted the leading marine salvage company SMIT, a subsidiary of Boskalis, that will coordinate the transfer operation and prepare the Safer for towing to a green scrapping yard.

“This operation highlights the unique role the UN can play to address the world’s seemingly intractable problems. UNDP and other partners inside and outside the UN should be proud of their roles in getting us this far.”
David Gressly, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen

The intervention comes with a large price tag, and the UN is appealing for urgent support. Countries and other partners have pledged more than US$100 million, but a significant funding gap remains as close to $24 million more is needed to fully fund the emergency phase of the operation. 


FSO Safer explainer 

About the Safer



barrels of light crude


year-old vessel

stranded off Yemen’s coast



without maintenance

Potential damage

20 billion

US dollars

to clean up an oil spill

17 million


could be affected



could be lost instantly

Animation: Safer operation

Follow the Nautica

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