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‘As we celebrate FSO SAFER oil transfer, we demand companies pay up’ – Greenpeace MENA

© Greenpeace / Planet Labs PBC 2023
© Greenpeace / Planet Labs PBC 2023

As a three-week operation to drain a million-plus barrels of oil from the decaying FSO SAFER ends, Greenpeace celebrates efforts to avoid a major oil spill in the Red Sea and calls for the industry to be held accountable for disposal of the vessel and its toxic load.

The UN confirmed that the oil has been safely transferred from the SAFER to another vessel, the newly renamed YEMEN supertanker.

Ghiwa Nakat, Executive Director of Greenpeace MENA said: “We are celebrating a significant milestone in efforts to avoid a humanitarian and ecological crisis. This a big achievement for a long awaited and high risk operation. Despite the refusal of the oil industry to clean up its own mess, the international community came together to help defuse this ticking time bomb that threatened the entire Middle East.

“But while we mark this success, it is imperative to address the glaring absence of accountability exhibited by the oil industry. The oil companies behind the SAFER debacle are the same companies driving the climate crisis. These fossil fuel corporations are obscenely rich and recording staggering profits, but haven’t shown a shred of responsibility. They should be made to pay for the historical and future damage their operations cause. Polluters should bear the costs of their deadly trade, not the affected communities.”

The United Nations has been desperately raising funds to pay for the operation, even organising a crowdfunding campaign. More finance will be needed for the next stages but the oil companies are so far evading their responsibility for the end-of-life for the SAFER. As the UN struggles for funding, there is a real danger that the SAFER could end up in one of the ship scrapping beaches in South Asia and broken under rudimentary conditions with harmful consequences for host countries and communities.[1]

“Even after the oil is removed, SAFER will continue to pose a potential hazard due to the substantial amount of residues and hazardous materials, including asbestos. It is crucial that the recycling process for the Safer adheres to the highest standards, such as those outlined in the EU Ship Recycling Regulations, ensuring safety and environmental preservation,” added Nakat.

Oil giants such as TotalEnergies, Exxon, OMV and Occidental have used the SAFER for decades and are the likely owners of some of the transferred oil, yet have not lifted a finger to help prevent a potentially massive oil spill in the Red Sea.[2]

The risk of an oil spill or explosion has been hanging over the heads of millions of people living in the region. Such a catastrophe could inflict irreparable damage on Red Sea ecosystems and the livelihoods of the region’s coastal communities, which are already affected by war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the impacts of climate crisis. 

Now that the oil has been transferred to a new vessel, this risk has significantly decreased. But the threat cannot be averted until a final solution is found and the oil is completely and safely removed from Yemeni waters, warns Greenpeace MENA.

Satellite photos of the rescue operation are available in the Greenpeace Media Library.


[1] NGOs call for safe and environmentally sound recycling of FSO Safer 

[2] Oil giants behind FSO Safer revealed, plus their profits as reported for Q1 and Q2 in 2022 

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