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Letter to the UNSG: Averting an oil spill from the FSO SAFER tanker in Yemen


Secretary-General António Guterres
United Nations
UN Headquarters, S-3800
New York
NY 10017

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

I am writing to you to today to ask for your urgent help to prevent an environmental catastrophe that could further deepen the current humanitarian disaster in Yemen. 

The oil tanker FSO SAFER – a large offshore storage vessel – is currently moored off the coast of Yemen. The tanker carries a significant quantity of crude oil and has been left unattended for such a prolonged period that there are grave concerns that it could rupture or even explode.

If the 1 million barrels of oil thought to be contained aboard the FSO SAFER were to spill into the Red Sea it would cause an ecological disaster of global significance and further exacerbate the humanitarian challenges in the region.

The UN Security Council recently heard that a spill would have “appalling consequences [and] has the potential to inflict terrible additional suffering on millions of Yemenis.” [1]

Undertaking the urgent repairs needed to stabilise the FSO SAFER and subsequently offloading the oil it carries will pose complex technical and logistical challenges. 

Given the context of brutal conflict in Yemen compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the risks of an oil spill threatening citizens in the wider region, Greenpeace believes that UN action is critical to prevent an environmental and humanitarian disaster, and have written to the Secretary-General calling for him to prioritise action on the tanker. Some governments have already called for UN intervention and, whilst the Security Council recently met to discuss this issue, progress remains slow. [2] As the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme said, “time is running out for us to act in a coordinated manner.”[3]

We urge you (and the Security Council member states that we are also writing to) to:

  • Make averting an oil spill from the FSO SAFER a priority for urgent UN action.
  • Mobilise the UN’s full diplomatic and technical capacity to carry out an urgent on-board technical assessment to determine what repairs are needed to make the vessel at least temporarily safe.
  • Once stabilised, the oil on board should be safely removed onto another seaworthy vessel.

Thank you for taking this forward. I am happy to speak to you personally on this matter and to connect you and your team with our Middle East and Northern Africa office.

Yours sincerely,

Jennifer Morgan
Executive Director
Greenpeace International

c.c. Inger Andersen, Executive Director UN Environment Programme



[1] Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Briefing to the Security Council on the SAFER tanker in Yemen, New York, 15th July 2020

[2] UK warns of “catastrophic environmental threat” from hazardous Yemeni tanker, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 15th July 2020

[3] Yemen oil tanker wreck: Time running out to avert ‘looming environmental, economic and humanitarian catastrophe,’ UN News, 15th July

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