The UN-backed salvage mission for the decaying offshore oil storage tanker FSO Safer has commenced in Yemen. The team, comprising Boskalis and the SMIT group, arrived in Yemen on 30 May to begin the operation to transfer the more than one million barrels of crude oil from the decaying tanker. They had departed Djibouti on 29 May along with UN representatives for the mission, which is estimated to last over seven weeks.
For several years, the UN has been leading negotiations to survey the vessel and oversee the necessary repairs to the rebels in charge of the Yemeni region where the tanker is located. Since previous agreements for the maintenance and repairs of the tanker failed, the UN warned that it was at imminent risk of sinking, leaking or possibly exploding.
The team will begin with a visual inspection of the FSO Safer and analyse the level of toxic gas. The ventilation system of the tanker has not been operational since 2017. The team of approximately 40 salvage experts and support staff will inspect the pumps and engine room, as well as the status of the mooring arrangement and the inert gas lines.
The team will carry a portable inert gas generator to stabilise the tanks on FSO Safer, which is expected to last two weeks. Only after this phase, the tanker, Nautica (307,000 dwt), will arrive in Yemen for the actual transfer of the oil, expected to take 19 days. The final phase will require an additional 17 days, where the salvage team will use a mobile spray tank cleaning machine and transfer the residual and dirty water to Nautica.
The UN has aimed to raise funds for the operation and has also planned to sell the FSO Safer for green recycling. The oil belongs to the rebels and cannot be used to pay for the costs of transfer, the UN stated. The resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, David Gressly was aboard the Boskalis vessel Ndeavor as it arrived at FSO Safer and tweeted that after two years of political groundwork, fundraising and UNDP project development, “the operation on the water is set to begin!”