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).

SSOP Grievance Redress Mechanism