FSO Safer

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Coordinates: 15°07′09″N 42°35′40″E / 15.1192°N 42.5945°E / 15.1192; 42.5945

NameFSO Safer
NamesakeSafer (صافر Ṣāfar), an oilfield in Yemen[1]
OwnerYemen Oil and Gas Corporation
Port of registryYemen Yemen
BuilderHitachi Zosen Corporation,
IdentificationIMO number7376472
General characteristics
Class and typeULCC
Tonnage406,640 DWT
Length362 m (1,188 ft)
Beam70 m (230 ft)
Speed15.5 knots (28.7 km/h)

FSO Safer (pronounced "saffer" /ˈsæfər/)[1] is a floating oil storage and offloading vessel that is moored in the Red Sea north of the Yemeni city of Al Hudaydah.


Safer was built in 1976 by the Hitachi Zosen Corporation in Japan as the oil tanker Esso Japan.[2] As built, her gross tonnage was 192,679 and deadweight tonnage 406,640 tons. She measured 362 metres (1,188 ft) in length and her beam was 70 metres (230 ft).[2] She was powered by a single steam turbine that gave her a service speed of 15.5 knots (17.8 mph).[2]

In 1987, Esso Japan was converted into an unpropelled storage vessel and renamed Safer.[2] She was moored about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) off the coast of Yemen in 1988 under the ownership of the Yemeni government via the national oil company, which used her to store and export oil from inland oil fields around Ma'rib.[3][4] In her storage configuration, Safer has a capacity of about three million barrels of oil.[4]

Loss of structural integrity[edit]

In March 2015, in the early days of the Yemeni Civil War, Safer fell into the hands of Houthi forces when they took control of the coastline surrounding her mooring.[4] In the following years, her structural condition deteriorated significantly, leading to the risk of a catastrophic hull breach or explosion of oil vapors that would typically be suppressed by inert gas generated on board.[4][3] The ship is estimated to contain about 1.14 million barrels of oil valued at up to US$80 million, which became a point of contention in negotiations between the Houthi rebels and Yemeni government, both of which asserted claims to the cargo and vessel.[5][6] In early December 2019, Al Jazeera reported that oil had begun to leak from Safer,[6] though subsequent satellite imagery showed that the report had been inaccurate and there was no sign of oil outflow from the ship.[7]

Following a leak in the cooling system, water entered the machine room, prompting the United Nations Security Council to hold a special meeting about it in July 2020.[8][9]

On 15 July 2020, the United Nations warned that the FSO Safer could spill four times as much oil as the Exxon Valdez oil spill.[10]

On 24 September 2020, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United Nations wrote in a letter that experts had observed that "a pipeline attached to the vessel is suspected to have been separated from the stabilizers holding it to the bottom and is now floating on the surface of the sea."[11] In late November, the United Nations and Houthi leadership reached an agreement to allow a UN-led team access to Safer by January 2021 for purposes of inspection and repair.[12] The expedition was delayed indefinitely when the Houthis failed to provide a letter assuring the safety of the UN-led team.[13]

As of October 2021, it was being reported that the FSO Safer was at imminent risk of sinking, fire or explosion.[1][14] A massive spill would be disastrous, closing the ports of Hudaydah and As-Salif for weeks, disrupting the food aid on which half the population of the country depends. This could also cause a lack of fuel, necessary for pumping or delivering water, and could disrupt desalination plants in the area. A spill would also shut down the fishing industry on which 1.7 million people depend, and could disrupt world trade passing through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.[15][16][17]

Simulated surface oil concentration of imminent oil spill
Simulated air pollution concentration (a preliminary scientific projection)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Caesar, Ed (2021-10-02). "The Ship That Became a Bomb". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2021-10-11.
  2. ^ a b c d "Safer (7376472)". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Report: Houthis Seeking Help to Prevent Massive Oil Spill off Yemen from Leaking FSO". World Maritime News. 17 December 2019. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "Experts fear deserted oil tanker off Yemen could explode". The Guardian. 23 July 2019. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  5. ^ "'Floating bomb': Decaying oil tanker near Yemen coast could soon explode, experts warn". CNBC. 24 July 2019. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Deserted oil tanker in Yemen: Houthis ask for help". Al Jazeera. 15 December 2019. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  7. ^ "Yemen's deadly ghost ship". OpenDemocracy. 18 February 2020. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  8. ^ "'Ticking bomb' warning for decaying Yemen ship, loaded with oil". South China Morning Post. 12 July 2020. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
  9. ^ Wintour, Patrick (16 July 2020). "Oil spill from Yemen tanker 'would be four times worse then Exxon Valdez' – UN". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
  10. ^ "Tanker off Yemen risks spilling four times as much oil as Exxon Valdez - U.N." July 15, 2020 – via www.reuters.com.
  11. ^ "Saudis warn U.N. of oil spot in shipping lane near decaying Yemen tanker". Reuters. September 23, 2020. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  12. ^ "U.N. Gets OK to Aid Crippled Yemen Tanker After Months of Waiting". The New York Times. 24 November 2020. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  13. ^ Gladstone, Rick (2021-02-03). "U.N. Delays Salvage of Yemen Oil Tanker Amid Fears of Major Spill". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-25.
  14. ^ Haroun, Azmi. "A massive, defunct oil tanker off of Yemen's coastline could sink or explode any day, costing the shipping industry billions and leaving millions of Yemenis in harm's way". news.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2021-10-11.
  15. ^ a b Benjaminn Huynh; et al. (Oct 11, 2021). "Public health impacts of an imminent Red Sea oil spill". Nature Sustainability. doi:10.1038/s41893-021-00774-8.
  16. ^ Graham Lawton (Oct 11, 2021). "Decaying oil tanker near Yemen could trigger humanitarian disaster". New Scientist.
  17. ^ BBC Newshour, Oct. 13, 2021.

External links[edit]