EnvironmentMiddle EastOffshoreTankers

UN closes in on deal to offload oil from dangerous FSO off Yemen

A solution is tentatively to hand to one of the world’s greatest ecological threats posed by a single ship.
The United Nations has finally thrashed out a deal in principle to transfer more than 1m barrels of crude oil from the 46-year-old FSO Safer, a rusting, laden vessel that has been moored off the war-torn Yemeni coast for decades.

UN officials are now seeking to bring a boom to protect the ailing, abandoned ship and its cargo, while also trying to source a tanker to help in the offload process. The team involved in the negotiations with various factions in Yemen have stressed however that the deal is still not 100%.

Splash has reported on the dangerous potential of the FSO Safer for a number of years, something brought into focus by the explosion and sinking of a similarly aged FPSO in Nigeria earlier this year.

Without a swift resolution, an explosion or leak from the Safer could trigger one of the biggest oil spill disasters in history. According to a recent study produced by the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, the impacts could be much wider, more severe and longer lasting than thought from previously available information. If all the oil is spilled it would be four times bigger than the Exxon Valdez, causing widespread severe environmental damage and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Yemen and affecting neighbouring countries.

The FSO Safer has over 1.1m barrels of Marib light crude oil onboard anchored in the Red Sea just 6 km off the coast of Yemen. The vessel has been left without maintenance for the past seven years. Vital fire fighting and prevention equipment and the ship’s generators are not working and there has been reports of water ingress.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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