Inspenet, August 15, 2023.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has successfully completed the transfer of oil from the supertanker FSO Safer in waters off Yemen’s Red Sea coast, removing the immediate threat of a potential massive spill.
For several years, the FSO Safer vessel was at risk of rupture or explosion. A major spill from this ship would have caused both an environmental and humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations Office.
Extraction of crude oil from the ship FSO Safer
Oil stored on the FSO Safer was transferred to the replacement vessel MOST Yemen (formerly known as Nautica) in a ship-to-ship transfer operation that began on 25 July. On-site preparations for this operation had been carried out by the SMIT company, a subsidiary of Boskalis, since May.
As much of the 1.14 million barrels of oil as possible has been extracted. However, there is still less than 2% of the original load, which is mixed with sediment and will be removed during the final cleanup phase.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said: “I welcome the news that the transfer of oil from the FSO Safer has been safely completed today. The United Nations-led operation has averted what could have been an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe of overwhelming magnitude.”
Likewise, the Administrator of the PNUD, Achim Steiner, affirmed that “it is a moment of pride for the many people of the United Nations system, as well as for our donors and partners, who have worked tirelessly during the last months and years to avoid a disaster in a country already vulnerable after a protracted conflict. Much remains to be done, but today we can confidently say that the immediate threat of a spill has been averted.”
On the other hand, Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis said: “I am very pleased that we have succeeded in extracting the oil from the FSO Safer and transferring it to a modern double hull tanker. With our rescue activities, we have once again averted a potential environmental disaster of unprecedented proportions.”
Additionally, various measures were taken to ensure a safe working environment. The necessary steps were then taken to transfer the oil to the very large capacity tanker Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) purchased by the UN.
The VLCC was moored alongside the FSO Safer on 23 July with the assistance of two Smit Lamnalco company tugs and oil booms were placed fore and aft between the two tankers as a precaution.
Subsequently, on July 25, the connection of the pipes for the transfer of oil between the FSO Safer and the VLCC was established, and hydraulic pumps were installed to facilitate the transfer of oil to the VLCC.
The remaining stages of the operation by SMIT Salvage include tank cleaning, which is anticipated to take approximately one week. Upon completion of these activities, the FSO Safer will be ready to be transported to an environmentally responsible scrapping process under UN supervision.
It should be noted that since 2015, the FSO had not undergone maintenance due to the conflict in Yemen, which caused it to deteriorate to the point of presenting an imminent risk of explosion or rupture. This situation raised serious concerns in both environmental and humanitarian terms, with the potential to cause devastation in the region.