Operation to empty Yemen Safer oil tanker set to begin, UN says

Fundraising drive was launched to remove 1.1 million barrels of oil from the decaying tanker and transfer it to a replacement ship, which set sail from China in early April

By Reuters

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The staff of a vessel in charge of unloading oil from the decaying vessel FSO Safer are pictured off the coast of Ras Issa, Yemen, prior to the start of the unloading operation led by the United Nations to avoid an oil spill in the Red Sea on Tuesday.  — AFP
The staff of a vessel in charge of unloading oil from the decaying vessel FSO Safer are pictured off the coast of Ras Issa, Yemen, prior to the start of the unloading operation led by the United Nations to avoid an oil spill in the Red Sea on Tuesday. — AFP

Published: Tue 30 May 2023, 10:51 PM

Last updated: Wed 31 May 2023, 3:16 PM

Operations to salvage 1.1 million barrels of oil from a decaying tanker moored off Yemen's coast will soon begin after a technical support ship arrived on site on Tuesday, the United Nations said.

UN officials have been warning for years that the Red Sea and Yemen's coastline was at risk as the Safer tanker could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.


The Ndeavor tanker, with a technical team from Boskalis/SMIT, is in place at the Safer tanker off the coast of Yemen's Ras Isa, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen David Gressley said on Twitter from on board the Ndeavor.

The war in Yemen caused suspension of maintenance operations on the Safer in 2015. The UN has warned its structural integrity has significantly deteriorated and it is at risk of exploding.


The UN launched a fundraising drive, even starting a crowdfunding campaign, to raise the $129 million needed to remove the oil from the Safer and transfer it to a replacement tanker, the Nautica, which set sail from China in early April.

The salvage operation cannot be paid for by the sale of the oil because it is not clear who owns it, the UN has said.

"Work at sea will start very soon. Additional funding is still important to finish the process," the UN said on its Yemen Twitter account.


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