After years of indecisiveness, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has announced that it’s playing a key role in preventing an oil spill from the FSO Safer, a ship that has been dubbed “The Ship That Became a Bomb”. The ship’s current state is largely due to the aftermath of Yemen’s civil war. As of May 30, 2023, the Boskalis multi-purpose support vessel, Ndeavor, arrived at the FSO Safer site with the salvage team and equipment on board to commence work. They will inspect the safers and carry out all necessary work to secure them for the transfer of the oil to the Nautica, a backup tanker in Djibouti.
The complete loss of the FSO Safer’s crude oil cargo would result in an oil slick from the Bab Al Mandab Strait north to Al Qunfudah in Saudi Arabia. The slick would cover about 500 km of the Yemeni and Saudi coasts and over half of the Eritrean coast, depending on seasonal tides and currents. The Boskalis team will have to conduct a thorough assessment of the cargo to stabilize it and prevent the possibility of an explosion. This will involve inspecting the pump and engine rooms, making the cargo tanks safe, and refining the recovery plan.
Built-in 1976 by Hitachi Zosen Corporation of Japan for Exxon as Esso Japan, the FSO Safer is a 407,000 dwt single hull FSO, which today has over 1.1 million barrels on board. It was converted into an FSO, renamed Safer, and moved to the coast of Yemen in 1987. The UNDP is coordinating the salvage effort, and once the cargo has been stabilized and inspected, the Nautica will arrive at the site (in June) to receive the oil. The IMO’s support in preventing an oil spill from the deteriorating ship is sure to be a positive move in the right direction.
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