Al Hudaydah, 19 August 2023 (TDI): After months of dedicated effort, a United Nations-led operation has achieved a remarkable feat by successfully transferring over a million gallons of oil from the deteriorating FSO Safer. This action averted a potentially catastrophic environmental and humanitarian crisis looming in the Red Sea.

For eight years, a looming threat has lingered off the coast of Yemen in the form of the ageing oil storage vessel, FSO Safer, often referred to as a “floating time bomb.”

Marooned due to the complexities of war, the vessel had been left unattended for years, making its cargo – more than one million barrels of crude oil – an impending danger.

After 47 years, the tanker was at risk of rupturing at any moment, holding the potential to trigger a disastrous environmental chain reaction in the Red Sea.

Understanding the gravity of the situation, the UN devised a comprehensive plan to prevent the looming catastrophe. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) took charge of executing the operation.

UNDP assembled a diverse team of marine salvage, maritime law, insurance, and oil spill experts. This international coalition united to combat the impending threat. To execute the operation, a multi-step strategy was formulated.

The replacement tanker, Nautica (renamed MOST Yemen), was acquired and customized according to specifications in Singapore.

Leading marine salvage company SMIT, a subsidiary of Boskalis, was entrusted with mobilizing a fleet of support vessels, spearheaded by the Ndeavor.

The Ndeavor embarked on a journey from the Netherlands to Djibouti, eventually reaching the FSO Safer at the end of May stationed approximately eight kilometres off the southern Yemen coast.

On 17 July, the MOST Yemen departed from Hodeidah and anchored beside the FSO Safer. With meticulous preparations complete, SMIT commenced the critical ship-to-ship transfer of oil, promptly reducing the immediate risk of disaster.

The success of this operation was bolstered by global solidarity. Governments, corporations, and the public rallied together to provide essential financial aid, expertise, and resources, amassing a total of US$121.2 million for the emergency phase of the project.

Although this level of support has been instrumental, a funding gap of US$21.8 million remains for the broader, longer-term plans concerning the FSO Safer.

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While the successful transfer of oil marks a significant milestone, the UN emphasizes that the journey is not over. David Gressly, UN Resident Coordinator for Yemen, emphasizes that although the worst-case scenario has been averted, the work continues.

On this successful occasion, Mohammed Siddig Madawi, UNDP’s Safer Coordinator and Adviser, shares a sentiment of inspiration and international cooperation, underscoring the United Nations’ vital role in addressing the world’s most complex challenges.

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, expressed his pride in the collective effort that averted a potential disaster in a nation already grappling with long-standing conflict.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also welcomed the successful operation, hailing it as a prevention of an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe of colossal proportions.

The FSO Safer operation shows how important the UN is in bringing the world together. With knowledge and working together, it deals with really tough problems and solves the most important issues in the world.