Transfer of oil from decaying tanker FSO Safer, which was stranded off the coast of Yemen, is expected to start early next week, David Gressly, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen told the UN Security Council on Monday.

According to Gressly, the vessel Nautica is preparing to sail from Djibouti and it will moor alongside the Safer. Once the transfer of oil from the Safer starts, it will take about two weeks.

Carrying over 1.1 million barrels of oil, the supertanker FSO Safer was abandoned off Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hudaydah after the civil war broke out in the country in 2015. Since then, the Safer has deteriorated significantly in absence of any servicing or maintenance, prompting fears of a major environmental disaster.

“The completion of the ship-to-ship transfer of the oil by the start of August will be a moment when the whole world can heave a sigh of relief,” Gressly also said, adding that the “worst-case humanitarian, environmental and economic catastrophe from a massive oil spill will have been prevented.”

After the oil has been off-loaded, the next critical step will include delivery and installment of a catenary anchor leg mooring (CALM) buoy, which is secured to the seabed, and to which the replacement vessel will safely be installed. The CALM buoy needs to be in place by September.

Backed by generous funding from Member States, the private sector, and the general public, which contributed $300,000 through a crowdfunding campaign, the United Nations raised about $118 million of the $148 million estimated budget for the undertaking.

The broad coalition working to prevent the catastrophe also includes environmental groups, including Greenpeace and, in Yemen, Holm Akhdar as well as several UN entities.

Video credit: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)