H.E. Macky Sall,
Chairman of the African Union, President of the Republic of Senegal


Your Excellency,

I am writing to you with concern over the threat posed by the tanker the FSO Safer, moored off the coast of Yemen with an estimated 1.1 million barrels of oil on board (140,000 tonnes). With close proximity to Africa’s eastern shorelines, this poses an imminent threat to the Red Sea, the biodiversity and the people whose livelihoods depend on them, with potentially devastating consequences for countries in the continent and the region.

Due to the ongoing war in Yemen, the tanker has not been maintained and is ‘out of class’ and therefore uninsured. It is an old ship, built with a single hull in 1976; its machinery, pumps, fire-fighting equipment, and inert gas systems have already stopped working.

Experts, officials and authorities have all raised concerns that the tanker could either explode or cause a major oil leak that would exacerbate what has already been called the World’s worst humanitarian disaster, destroying livelihoods of communities and seriously damaging fragile marine ecosystems. It could even block shipping trade through the area with financial consequences for global trade.

An agreement has been made between the UN and the de facto authorities in Yemen for the safe transfer of the oil being carried by the Safer to another tanker. While this is a positive development, the funds available to complete this task are currently insufficient. There is concern that the plan would fail because of USD 80 million, causing damages in billions of USD.

A High Level Pledging Conference to Salvage the Safer has been organised by the UN and hosted by The Netherlands on May 11 with the aim of securing the funds to transfer the oil from the Safer to another tanker.

We urge you to attend this conference and to join us in urging donor countries to make this effort succeed and help the world avert a catastrophe. We believe it is important that donor countries receive your message of solidarity with the people threatened by this looming oil spill on behalf of Africa.

The humanitarian, economic and environmental impacts of an oil disaster of this size in the Red Sea would be catastrophic. An oil spill would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, preventing access to the main ports of Hodeidah and Salif, through which 68% of aid is brought into the country, affecting supplies of food aid for up to 8.4 million people.

Desalination plants on Yemen’s coast at Hodeidah, Salif and Aden could be affected, interrupting the drinking water supply for approximately 10 million people. The entire Red Sea region’s drinking water supply could be contaminated by oil in just three weeks following a spill.

The transfer of the oil must happen before October due to weather conditions. The wider context, of the ongoing conflict in Yemen, makes the situation all the more precarious. Currently a two-month truce has been agreed, opening a key window of opportunity to safely move the oil.

Hence we ask that you support the plan in solidarity with those communities and countries at the pledging conference. This would encourage other governments to come together and support this urgent and vital effort.

I am sure you would agree that money cannot be used as an excuse to fail to prevent one of the biggest humanitarian and environmental tragedies.

Yours sincerely

Melita Steele
Interim Programme Director Greenpeace Africa

Tel: +221 33 869 49 24/ 78 307 10 70

Website: www.greenpeaceafrica.org