Euronav’s Former VLCC Tanker Arrives in Yemen for FSO Safer Salvage

Nautica VLCC Euronav
Nautica preparing for the transfer to Yemn which took place this weekend (UNDP photo)

Published Jul 17, 2023 12:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

The United Nations is marking another key step in its efforts to remove the estimated one million barrels of oil from the FSO Safer off Yemen. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) office announced the former Euronav tanker Nautica acquired to act as a replacement for the Safer has departed from Djibouti and is now in Yemen.

The 307,000 dwt VLCC was transferred to the Hudaidah Anchorage off the coast of Yemen arriving yesterday, July 16, where final preparations are being made. The French news agency AFP reports there was a handover ceremony today delivering the crude oil tanker to SEPOC, the Yemeni oil and gas company. They are renaming the Nautica, the Yemen, with the Huthi authorities that control that area of the war-torn country announcing they now control the vessel. The tanker is expected to go alongside the FSO Safer and the oil transfer to begin. The salvage team from SMIT was contracted by UNDP to undertake the efforts for the preparation and transfer and the preparation of the FSO Safer for recycling.

“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 on July 15. “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.”

Boskalis has reported that the salvage team from SMIT has been on-site at the FSO Safer since the end of May. Over the past seven weeks, they have completed a comprehensive survey of the FSO Safer and its equipment as well as an environmental survey of the area. They report the hull of the decaying vessel has largely remained intact with no leaks or issues in the air. However, the UN previously determined that the FSO Safer was beyond repair and needs to be urgently replaced.

The Safer has been maintained only with a skeleton maintenance crew for the past few years. It was reported that the vessel’s tanks had not been properly vented raising the danger of an explosion. SMIT brought in a portable inert gas generator to stabilize the tanks to ensure they would be ready for the oil transfer. Last week, the UN reported that SMIT had certified that the operation was ready to proceed and the UN said the operation was within a suitable level of risk.

Speaking from aboard the Nautica, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly, said: “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. I thank donors, private companies, and the general public for providing the funds that have brought us so far.”

After completing the transfer of oil, SMIT will undertake cleaning of the tanks aboard the FSO Safer to remove as much residual oil and material. All the waste material will also be transferred to the Nautica for storage.

A final plan for the disposal of the FSO Safer has not been announced. The monies raised from the sale of the ship are to be used to fund the UN-led salvage operation. Last week, speaking at the UN Security Council, an official highlighted that the UN has made an emergency loan to the project and still needed to raise $25 million to complete the project and repay the loan from the UN.