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SMIT Team Set to Begin Oil Transfer from Decaying FSO Safer

The FSO Safer pictured May 30, 2023. Photo: UNDP

SMIT Team Set to Begin Oil Transfer from Decaying FSO Safer

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 2667
July 17, 2023

The UN-led effort to prevent a potential environmental and humanitarian catastrophe from the decaying supertanker FSO Safer off Yemen’s coast has taken a major step forward with the replacement vessel Nautica now en route to the site.

All technical preparations and agreements for the oil transfer operation have now been finalized.

The FSO Safer, containing an estimated 1.14 million barrels of oil, has been at risk of breaking up or exploding for years after the vessel was abandoned in 2015 due to the conflict in Yemen.

The UN has warned that a major spill would devastate fishing communities on Yemen’s Red Sea coast and cost estimated at $20 billion to cleanup. Disruptions to shipping through the Bab al-Mandab strait to the Suez Canal could cost billions more in global trade losses every day.

The UN Development Programme is implementing the operation to remove the oil. The UNDP has contracted SMIT, a subsidiary of Boskalis, for the operation.

The oil aboard the FSO Safer will be pumped out via a ship-to-ship transfer that is expected to take about two weeks to complete once the replacement vessel arrives.

A SMIT team has been on site at the Safer since late May aboard the multi-purpose cable laying vessel Ndeaver to prepare for the oil transfer operation.

The UNDP purchased the Nautica from Belgian tanker company Euronav in April specifically for the operation.

“With the Nautica now en route, we expect the removal of oil from the Safer to begin in the next week,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. “Removing the threat the Safer poses will be a huge achievement for the many people who have worked tirelessly on this complex and difficult project over months and years to bring us to this point. We will not rest until that threat is gone, and today we are close to beginning the operation.”

David Gressly, has UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, has led UN system-wide efforts on the Safersince September 2021.

“The ship-to-ship transfer of the oil is an important milestone, but not the end of the operation. The next critical step is the installation of a CALM buoy to which the replacement vessel will be safely moored,” said Gressly from aboard the Nautica. “I thank donors, private companies and the general public for providing the funds that have brought us so far.”

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