Race against time

Stop Red Sea oil spill

The United Nations has successfully wrapped up the emergency phase of an operation to avert what could have been 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 that was 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 eight years. Its structural integrity is compromised, and it is deteriorating rapidly. There was a serious risk the vessel could be struck by a floating mine, spontaneously explode, or break apart at any moment.

Thanks to UNDP, UN sister agencies and an international team of experts, and our generous donors, the Red Sea will now not be a scene of unthinkable devastation. 

“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 protracted conflict. There is still work to be done, but today we can say with confidence that the immediate threat of a spill has been averted.”
Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator

After months of preparation and coordination, the UN system and partners began 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, which was renamed the MOST Yemen, 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 coordinated the transfer operation.

The intervention comes with a large price tag, and the UN is still appealing for urgent support. Countries and other partners have pledged more than US$121.2 million but a significant funding gap remains as close to US$21.8 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 / MOST Yemen

Follow the Ndeavor