FSO Safer Salvage Operation Project (SSOP)

Project Summary


The Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) "Safer" vessel is currently moored approximately 8 kilometres off the coast of Yemen and 50 kilometres northeast of the port of Hodeida. Constructed in 1976 as an oil tanker and converted in 1987 to be a floating storage facility, the vessel is single-hulled, 362 meters in length, and is believed to contain an estimated 1.148 million barrels of light crude oil. Production and offloading operations are suspended due to the conflict, and no maintenance operations have been undertaken for seven years. The FSO Safer’s age and lack of maintenance have deteriorated and compromised its structural integrity.

The vessel currently poses a substantial threat of spilling oil due to leakages, an explosion from the accumulation of volatile explosion gases, or a strike from a floating sea mine. A significant spill could occur at any time, discharging its oil cargo along Yemen’s Red Sea coastline and towards its neighbouring countries. Heavy contamination and pollution could extend as far as the Bab-El-Mandab strait, with some oil passing beyond the Gulf of Aden. The disaster would quickly surpass national capacity and resources to respond effectively, estimated at four times the amount of crude oil spilt in the Exxon Valdez catastrophe of 1989. The lives and livelihoods of up to 12 million people will be directly affected, with the unique environment of the Rea Sea experiencing enormous damage above and below the water. Recovery from the oil spill could take up to 3 years and potentially cost US$ 20 billion without urgent intervention. Life below water is anticipated to not recover for 25 years. In addition, one of the world’s major shipping lanes could be affected, impacting many more people globally.

This project aims to prevent a catastrophic oil spill occurring in the Red Sea and its potentially disastrous impacts. This shall be achieved by mobilising salvage assets - including a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) and the installation of a Catenary Anchor Leg Mooring (CALM) buoy - and offloading the oil from the FSO Safer to the VLCC, with a well-coordinated and functional oil-spill contingency response plan on standby. 


Prevent a potential oil spill from the FSO Safer tanker using a 2 Phase approach. In the Phase I, the UN will coordinate the ship-to-ship transfer of oil from the FSO Safer as soon as possible to address the immediate environmental and humanitarian threats. In Phase II, the UN will facilitate the installation of a replacement option for the FSO Safer.

Gender Empowerment

It is estimated that over 50 per cent of the affected population are women and girls. Women and youth are expected to play leadership roles in various aspects of the contingency response including community mobilization, sensitization, trainings, and livelihoods support initiatives. A National Oil Spill Contingency Plan has been designed for the coastline of Yemen and neighbouring countries to build community capacity for an effective response to an oil spill from the FSO Safer.

Expected Results

  • Prevention of a catastrophic oil pollution in Yemen’s Red Sea coastline and toward its neighbouring countries.
  • Protection of the lives and livelihoods of over 12 million people (50% women and girls).


(as of 9 March 2023)

  • US$ 95 million of the estimated US$ 129 million required for the emergency phase – during which the oil will be removed from the FSO Safer – has been pledged, of which $75 million has been received.
  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is pleased to announce that it has entered into an agreement with Euronav to purchase a very large crude carrier or ‘VLCC’ – as part of the UN-coordinated operation to remove more than a million barrels of oil from the decaying tanker ‘FSO Safer’ off Yemen’s Red Sea coast that threatens a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe.
  • The vessel chosen by UNDP to undertake the operation is a double hulled Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC). A final pre-purchase inspection report submitted to UNDP confirms the vessel’s suitability to undertake the FSO Safer Operation.
  • The vessel is currently at drydock for necessary modifications and regular maintenance before sailing towards the FSO Safer, moored about 4.8 nautical miles off Yemen’s Ras Issa peninsula, for the ship-to-ship transfer of the oil. The vessel is expected to arrive in early May.  
  • UNDP has contracted a salvage company SMIT, which is currently finalizing a detailed operational plan.
  • The vessel is currently in drydock for regular maintenance and modifications to make it suitable for use as a Floating Storage and Offloading ship, or ‘FSO’ –. These will take about a month. Once complete, the vessel will sail to Yemen, where the SMIT salvage company will remove the oil from the FSO Safer Through a process known as ‘Ship to Ship transfer.’ 
  • The purchase of this vessel is a major step forward in our efforts to safely remove the oil from the FSO Safer and avoid the risk of an environmental and humanitarian disaster on a massive scale.
  • Other UN agencies, a marine management consultancy firm, maritime legal firm, insurance and ship brokers and oil spill experts have played critical parts to achieve these accomplishments and will continue to do so.


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