Find latest updates on the rescue and/or salvage of FSO-Safer below. Contributions wellcome, as well as corrections & donations.
For more on Safer, a political analysis and a historical background, please read this background article and analysis first
Boskalis today announces the end of their part of the operation Save the Red Sea, via Linkedin. Boskalis subsidary Smit salvage has finished cleaning the tanks of the emptied FSO Safer and has assisted (whom?) in mooring the replacement tanker Nautica/Yemen.
On Dutch media Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowksi today said he was very happy to pull his crew out of Yemen because it hadn’t always been easy to do the work under Houthi supervision.
‘Imagine doing your work under constant surveillance and monitoring of armed militias. Most of the time communication was okay, but there have been moments our men have felt seriously threatened. In that sense i am very happy we have now moved into international waters outside Yemen. Our men have done an outstanding job under, yes, challenging conditions.’
Speaking on the operation itself Berdowski said things went according to plan. ‘I mean our work. Around us things did not always go as planned, for instance it took way longer than expected to get the replacement tanker on site.’
Berdowksi’s crew found the FSO Safer to be in the worst state possible. ‘This tanker was on his last legs, in very bad state. We ve seen many vessels in bad state everywhere around the world, but never as bad as this’.
UNDP yesterday late last night published a thankyou image for Smit:
Multipurpose vessel Ndeavor set sail yesterday to Djibouti, where crew will disembark today. After which Ndeavor will turn bow again, to sail for Rotterdam.
UN-Yemen responsible David Gressly yesterday published a goodbye and thank you explainer on twitter/X
THANK YOU @beleefboskalis SMIT SALVAGE FOR A JOB WELL DONE! It is an honor to be aboard the multipurpose vessel Ndeavor with the professionals that successfully carried out the #FSOSafer salvage operation and are now on the way home. We left Yemeni waters at 1813 today. pic.twitter.com/BpSYahGrHn
— David Gressly (@DavidGressly) August 28, 2023
UN-New York responsible Achim Steiner also posted triumphant footage to wave the salvors of Smit Salvage goodbye, after their ninety days at a sometimes boring, but often complicated job in a unbearably hot environment.
SMIT Salvage team @beleefboskalis leaving Yemeni waters today after safely pumping the oil off the aging #FSOSafer is not the end of the @UNDP-implemented operation to #StopRedSeaSpill. Completing the @UN-led operation urgently requires USD 22 million
— Abdallah Aldardari (@AbdallahAldard1) August 28, 2023
Boskalis did offer before to also tow FSO Safer away to a location where it could be dismantled environmently responsible, but UN announced today they are still some twenty odd million dollars short on this part of the operation.
With Smit salvage gone questions also remain about the fate of FSO Safer, the fate of Nautica/Yemen, the fate of the crude inside this replacement tanker and the fate of oilresiduals remaining inside FSO Safer. Questions have been sent to UN, possibly we ll have some answers in the near future.
UN & Boskalis announce the completion of phase 3 of operation Save the Red Sea. FSO Safer (aka rotting tanker/ rusty vessel/ ticketing time bomb) has been emptied of more than 1.1 million barrels of crude oil, harvested a decade ago in Marib, Yemen.
The crude had been sitting in FSO Safer waiting to be sold and picked up by supertankers, but a war disturbed the export process in 2015. Since than the old, single hulled tanker had been without maintainment. It consequently became ready for explosion or breakup, causing a possible environmental, economic and human disaster across a vast area of the Red Sea and surrounding countries.
Negotiations between UN and the new rulers of Yemen (aka Houthi/ rebels/ Sana’a government/ DFA) twice led to failed attempts at repairing the tanker. Only after four years the salvors of Smit salvage came up with the plan to empty Safer into another tanker, which first was negotiated with the Houthis, subsequently funded by mostly western countries and since may 2022 prepared on paper by Smit salvage and UN-Yemen.
Preparations irl have been going on since may 2023, when UN bought a replacement tanker and Smit sailed out from Rotterdam with three vessels, to prepare for the transfer of one hundred and eighty million liters of crude. Political and financial disagreements delayed the process for nearly a month, the transfer itself only took about two weeks.
Smit will take another week cleaning the sludge out of the old tanker. It is so far unknown if Smit will also be towing the tanker away. It is also unknown what happens to the crude in the replacement tanker. Various parties claim the profits of the crude. It is also unknown what happens to the replacement tanker, which has been given to the Houthi’s by the UN. The Houthi’s have hinted several times at more money donated to them for the maintainment of the replacement tanker.
Almost at twothird of operation Save the Red Sea. According to UN-Rep Steiner in New York 60% of the crude in Safer has been transferred to Nautica/Yemen.
Every day takes us closer to the completion of the rescue operation of the #FSOSafer.
Today 60% or 680 000 barrels were confirmed as transferred to the replacement tanker, the Yemen.
— Achim Steiner (@ASteiner) August 2, 2023
UN has stopped communicating about the deficit of around 30 million US dollars of the project. Maybe they found the money, but understandbly emptying Safer has top priority.
Yemeni’s opposed to Houthi rule meanwhile keep communicating their worries about replacement tanker Nautica/Yemen posing the same problem as Safer did, some five or ten years from now.
Theory is not hypothetical. Houthi’s have hinted at money to be given to them to keep Nautica/Yemen afloat and maintained for the years to come.
UN and partners are aiming for the crude to be sold, so the problem will be solved. Crude was sent to soem lab for analysis and quality testing, aftre which negotiations will open with Sana’a and IRG for the partition of the profits.
Greenpeace (NL) meanwhile keeps repeating their message that larger oil companies who have used Safer in the past and sometime still own crude inside do not contribute to the operation, despite making astronomical profits
Greenpeace eist dat oliemaatschappijen de rekening betalen voor hun olievervuiling. Het kan niet zo zijn dat zij onze #oceanen ongestraft vervuilen en ons voor de kosten laten opdraaien. 6/6
Lees meer: https://t.co/zSlK2l9ls2#StopDrillingStartPaying
— Greenpeace Nederland (@GreenpeaceNL) August 3, 2023
Apparently the crew of Smit salvage consists not only of Rotterdammers but for a large part of Lithuanians. No time to get the background of this, sorry
Proud to be a part of the #FSOSafer tanker rescue operation off the coast of #Yemen with the participation of as many as 20 Lithuanians. Big thanks to all partner countries&donors involved in this UN-led operation dedicated to avoiding an environmental catastrophe in the Red Sea. https://t.co/BEQkog4FHK
— Lithuania MFA | #StandWithUkraine (@LithuaniaMFA) August 1, 2023
Transfer is going swell. According to VN rep in New York Achim Steiner allready one third of the contents of Safer have been transferred to Nautica/Yemen.
The #FSOSafer carried 1.15 m barrels of oil. To date >360 000 barrels or 1/3 have been transferred to the replacement tanker, the Yemen.
— Achim Steiner (@ASteiner) July 30, 2023
Two of the middle tanks have been emptied. The crude was only present in the middle tanks. See for illustation the pic below shared by Make Safer Better twitter account..
This was the assumed oil storage tank layout from the "UNOPS Operations Related to FSO Safer Assessment and Light Maintenance – Scope of Work" document (Nov 2020). #FSOSafer #StopRedSeaSpill #Yemen https://t.co/jvvUE6V9GL pic.twitter.com/ZFYVCaEkt0
— Make Safer Better (@MakeSaferBetter) July 30, 2023
Hier meer van de mensen van Smit salvage
Transfer proceeding. Several countries and bodies -esp those funding the operation- proudly applauding the start of the operation and the consequently prevention of disaster in the Red Sea and beyond.
Crude is being tested in laboratory ahead of possible sale. As Yemen based UN rep Gressly and NY based UN-rep Steiner remark in their press statement this morning:
‘Discussions have also been held with both sides in Yemen regarding the sale of the oil which “is indeed on the horizon”. Samples have been sent for laboratory testing and a qualitative assessment is expected in the coming days.
UN officials stressed that securing the oil to avert any spillover was the top priority.
“We have now bought a great deal of time to work out legal issues, the issues among the parties themselves on how to sell and what for,” Mr. Gressly added.
“So, we’ll continue to work on that and encourage the parties to find a solution to eventually removing the oil, ideally for the benefit of the people of Yemen, that’s what we all want to see.”
It is really happening
This morning Smit salvage started the transfer of crude from rusty tanker into replacement tanker.
The transfer of oil from the FSO Safer to a replacement oil tanker commenced today. After mooring the VLCC Yemen alongside the FSO Safer off Yemen’s Red Sea coast, our SMIT Salvage colleagues have started the ship-to-ship transfer of the more than 1 million barrels of crude oil. pic.twitter.com/HWbaS83xeX
— Beleef Boskalis (@beleefboskalis) July 25, 2023
We are awaiting the technical details concerning the quality and viscosity of the oil, but three weeks from now the transfer should be finished.
IT HAS BEGUN! Today at 10:45 Yemen time, SMIT Salvage began the transfer of more than 1 mln barrels of oil from the decaying #FSOSafer to the replacement vessel Yemen (formerly Nautica). The transfer should be completed in less than three weeks. #StopRedSeaSpill pic.twitter.com/msUPVDii2N
— David Gressly (@DavidGressly) July 25, 2023
What happens to the crude the years to come is uncertain, many parties claim the profits.
It remains unclear who is from now on responsible this manmade timebomb will not be built up again.
Another major step forward: Replacement tanker Nautica has today been berthed alongside Safer.
This morning the salvours of Smit salvage managed to lower the gigantic drifters from Nautica, in order to save Safer from any collision and possible damage.
Today in Yemen – installing the giant fenders on the #YEMEN replacement tanker. Each of them weighs 15 tons.
— Achim Steiner (@ASteiner) July 20, 2023
Later in the day the tugboats pushed the vessels alongside eachother.
At 4:30am this morning engines were started to begin final manoeuvre of moving replacement tanker MOST YEMEN alongside FSO #Safer.
— Achim Steiner (@ASteiner) July 22, 2023
Two images that sum up the agony coming with the extasy, exclaimed in triumphant tweets from the various UN-agencies concerning the imminent solution to save the Red Sea and rest of the world from a major oil spill.
UN representative Gressly handing over the ownership of oiltanker Nautica to Houthi representative, giving away 55 million dollar (149 million dollar can also be argued) coughed up by the world
After which Houthi reps noted there is a dire need for more money, for the maintainment of Nautica, so it won’t turn into a time bomb like Safer did
Below a cartoon ( from tweet) depicting the feeling of the many Yemenis not within any of the profitable Houthi networks: a devilish Houthi strangling the blue snake with UN logo, whose intravenous drip is killing the population of Yemen
Nautica approaches Safer
The northern government/De Facto Authority/ aka Houthi takes proud ownership of Naitica, which is renamed Yemen.
صباح اليوم من على سفينة "نوتيكا" والتي تم تسليمها لحكومة بلادنا رسميا وتم تسميتها (اليمن)، نبارك للقيادة وللحكومة ولفريق صافر هذا الإنجاز المهم الفيديو نحن والاخ الاستاذ العزيز حسين العزي نائب وزير الخارجية pic.twitter.com/c2G61o4Q2b
— نصر الدين عامر (@Nasr_Amer1) July 17, 2023
AFP boarded Nautica and met operators and UN -Yemen chief David Greasly, who ‘feels pretty confident now that this is going to go forward. We believe through all the statements that we’ve received and the assurances, both private and public, that the transfer will go through,” Gressly said to afp.
AFP also spoke with Houthi representative al Shami, who seemed to be fishing for extra funds:
‘Once we transfer the oil, we would have to then take care of the new vessel,” said Edrees al-Shami, the Huthi-appointed executive general manager of SEPOC, the Yemeni oil and gas company.
Shami’s appointment is not acknowledged by the internationally recognised government, which has named its own SEPOC head.
“So we move the problem from an older, ageing vessel to a newer vessel,” Shami said.
“But the sea conditions are very rough, and if you don’t maintain it for a while then you go back to the same problem.’
Lots of media around the world carry the news of the start of the operation, which in reality has been underway since 2018. Or they carry the news of the arrival of Nautica, which in reality has been waiting for two months for political disagreement to be solved.
Meanwhile Houthi media blew the horn as well, blaming the Saudi coalition for the delay of several years in saving the world from disaster.
Nautica arrives at Hoedeidah to prepare for its last part of the journey towards FSO Safer.
— Achim Steiner (@ASteiner) July 16, 2023
According to Abdul Ghani Ghagman – a Yemeni geologist and former employee of the Safer oil company- Nautica will be renamed Yemen and registered belonging to Sana’a authorities/aka Houthis.
Safer is to remain in Ras Isa, according to Ghagman.
No confirmation yet that .. #FSOSafer will be released or de-mucked of residual oil in prep for scrapping.
— AbdulGhani Gaghman (@1Gaghman) July 15, 2023
The transfer of ownership is a very sensitive thing but an iron condition of the Houthis, to agree to the operation.
No words of opposition yet from either the Saudi coalition and the in 2015 ousted but still legitimate Yemeni government.
Instead their was a sign of approval in a tweet from foreign minister Binmubarak
بعد سنوات من تعنت المليشيات الحوثية ورفضها للحلول الأقل كلفة ل #خزان_صافر، وبفضل جهود الحكومة اليمنية وتبرعات الشركاء الدوليين، وصلت اليوم السفينة البديلة #NAUTICA والتي تحمل اسم اليمن #Yemen الى الحديدة استعدادا لتفريغ اكثر من مليون برميل من النفط الخام من الخزان المتهالك… pic.twitter.com/a9H4T6BxJP
— Ahmed A. BinMubarak (@BinmubarakAhmed) July 16, 2023
Nautica has left Djibouti yesterday at 09:45 Yemen time. UN confirms the departure, so does vesselfinder – marinetraffic.
The replacement vessel Nautica set sail from #Djibouti today at 09:45 en route to Yemen’s Red Sea coast to take on 1 million barrels of oil from the decaying #FSOSafer supertanker. I am excited to be aboard and for the start of the oil transfer next week! pic.twitter.com/dl6K7yjZ9z
— David Gressly (@DavidGressly) July 15, 2023
UN confirms yesterdays report by VOA that Smit salvage is about to resume the operation on the FSO Safer.
Nautica to set sail to Ras Isa one of these days so the operation can start early next week. Should take approx two weeks and finish first week of august.
Though unconfirmed this may be the explanation of the operations delay of nearly three weeks.
There still is the same funding gap of 25 million dollars.
Sana’a authorities today provided authorization for oiltransfer, says UN-Yemen responsible David Gressly.
Nautica to sail soon to Ras Isa, transfer to start soon and expected to finish at the beginning of August
More at source
Nautica meanwhile still anchored in Djibouti
A word from the man who organised what seemed to be unorganisable:
A word from Sana’a :
????المرتزقة يهرفون بما لايعرفون
حتى الآن لم تصل سفينة صافر الجديدة
وعملية الضخ والتفريغ لم تبدأ بعد
ستعلن صنعاء عن بدء عملية الضخ فور استكمال الإجراءات وفي وقتها المناسب إن شاء الله
— حسين العزي (@hussinalezzi5) July 8, 2023
Today we saw an update through UNDP. In a video we see Paul van ’t Hof presenting the situation as it is now.
Van ’t Hof is one of the two engineers who have been travelling up and down from Smit salvage in Rotterdam to Yemen in previous years, to think up solutions for the FSO Safer problem.
Update on #FSOSafer – more on the inspection to prepare for the ship-to-ship transfer of 1.14M barrels of oil, which is threatening a humanitarian & environmental disaster.
Thanks to @beleefboskalis & all partners in Yemen & across the ???? for their support to #StopRedSeaSpill! pic.twitter.com/qrAociY6BH
— UN Development (@UNDP) July 6, 2023
In the video however no new footage, nor any new news. Nautica remains in Djibouti. Crew- and supplyboat Leon meanwhile keeps commuting between Djibouti and Ras Isa. This might be seen as a prelude to the actual transfer of the crude from inside Safer into Nautica.
Crew-and supplyboat Leon has returned to Djibouti, possibly after delevering supplies to Ndeavor, Aden and Manakin.
Nautica remains anchored in Djibouti.
Crewboat Leon last week moved from Ras Isa to Djibouti and is now on its way back to Ras Isa, where FSO Safer is waiting to be offloaded. Ndeavor is still there waiting, just as tugboats Manakin and Aden.
No news from the political side, and no technical updates since last week. ‘We are waiting for the arrival of Nautica. Not much more to be said,’ is the reply from Boskalis.
Not much news.
Therefore a reminder of lasts weeks noonbriefing UN New York:
Q: And also on Yemen, has the UN team started the ship-to-ship transfer for the oil on the Safer tanker? Thanks.
Deputy Spokesman: That should be happening before the end of this month. But, yes, the ships have moved in place and the Ndeavour is ready to perform its tasks. So that’s happening.
Noteworthy because noting else is yesterdays tweet of OilSpillResponseLtd connecting to UNDP and standing by to help at Ras Isa in case of a spill. The tweet itself was later deleted, but sometimes still visible because included in a retweet of @makesaferbetter. There is also a press message with less details.
1. @UNDP has access to OSRL who are on standby with aircraft, dispersants & expert support for #FSOSafer oil transfer – if required (i.e. a spill occurs).
2. OSRL have “carried out a comprehensive risk analysis study on the potential land, marine, and air operations.” https://t.co/0NDSBJ03qx
— Make Safer Better (@MakeSaferBetter) June 28, 2023
Also noteworthy is a warning of western countries to the Houthi-regime not to revert to armed struggle because this would lead to total isolation of North Yemen.
Some technical news today plus a video, through Boskalis, parent company of Smit salvage titled: Inspections and oil transfer preparations almost completed.
In the video we see divers inspecting the hull, salvagers hitting at rusted parts of Safer to get them moving again. We see two tugboats accompanying Ndeavor.
These tugs will assist in the berthing of Nautica alongside Safer once the green light is given. They re also used to install oil booms, to protect the surroundings in case some oil is spilled during the transfer.
The Boskalis video ends with a message reading: the support of the parties remains critical to the operations succes.
Early morning UNDP tweeted another message and video with hull inspections, ending with the message the Safer will continue to pose a ‘residual environmental threat’ even without oil in it and therefore another 28 million dollars is needed to finish this operation.
Watch how the #FSOSafer inspection is progressing to prepare for the ship-to-ship transfer of the 1.14 million oil barrels threatening a humanitarian & environmental disaster.
????to @beleefboskalis & all the partners in Yemen & across the????for their support to #StopRedSeaSpill! pic.twitter.com/5TmrHtwNpG
— Achim Steiner (@ASteiner) June 27, 2023
Not a word on presumed delays of the operation, nor on speculations this presumed delay is caused by disagreement between DFA/Houthi and IRG/exiled government, with UN in between.
The problem apparently revolves around the ownership of the replacement tanker Nautica, still anchored and waiting in Djibouti. According to previous agreements ownership of Nautica will be transferred to SEPOC, the national Yemeni oil company, once it enters territorial waters at Ras Isa.
However the ownership of SEPOC is unclear. The area around Ras Isa where Nautica will anchor is in hands of Houthi/DFA. But formal ownership is by SEPOC in Marib, a city in mid-Yemen, where the oil flows from and which is in hands of the IRG.
This SEPOC does not want a tanker without use (because no oil flow in Yemen, pipeline broken beyond repair), without control to it, but with the responsibility to maintain the vessel, for 25 million dollars every year.
The Houthi/DFA wants the tanker to be registered to them in Sana’a , Yemen, however because of sanctions this is awkwardly impossible without crossing red lines. Moreover: not
A solution is delaying the formal transfer of Nautica, which Houthi/DFA does not yet accept.
Second solution is selling both tankers plus the crude, with the profits spent on humanitarian aid. But it is as yet unclear who controls this humanitarian aid. Negotiations are underway, but Houthi/DFA is known for profiting heavily from huminitarian aid.
All above is the educated guess of several well informed sources. To be continued.
More disturbing news is a message from UK patrolling ships in the area, approached by two small but armed crafts of unknown origin in vicinity of the Safer operation, early this morning.
Vessel approached 21nm south of Port Saleef, Yemen by two small craft 50m on the port side. Weapons sighted but no shots were fired. Small craft have now departed the vicinity.https://t.co/a6eYax4Zi0#MaritimeSecurity #Marsec pic.twitter.com/xFw8qvQ1ep
— United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) (@UK_MTO) June 27, 2023
Little news. Smit salvage vessels Ndeavor, Aden and supplyship Manakin have been joined by tugboat Leon in Ras Isa, close to FSO Safer. Nautica remains in place anchored in Djibouti.
Question to Boskalis -of which Smit salvage is a division- if things are alright answered positively. ‘Yes, all is well and we hope to post an update very soon.’
Navantigroup -consulted at various previous stages of this operation- yesterday tweeted a thread, also without much news. There is a throwback at the start of the operation, including the video Reuters made on 31 may.
Inspections of the decaying #FSOSafer in the #RedSea off #Yemen’s coast continue for safe oil transfer. The @UN-led operation started on May 30th, evaluating and securing the tanker. Legal issues must be resolved before storing oil on a separate vessel. https://t.co/FOtI48y9XO
— Navanti Group (@NavantiGroup) June 20, 2023
In the present silence surrounding the operation oppositional voices prevail. Objections from various Yemeni parties to the handover of tanker and oil to the Houthi’ s remain, just as objections from the Houthi’s to sharing profits with the IRG, whom they consider to be Saudi or Western mercenaries.
In the absence of new news some old news below, namely the figure of 1.328.050.910 barrels of crude that were exported through Safer between 1987 (i thought 1988) and 2015. This is 1165 times the amount assumed to be present in Safer now.
إجمالي كمية النفط الذي تم تصديره عبر الميناء (الباخرة) العائمة صافر في رأس عيسى منذ البداية في عام 87 وحتى مارس 2015 هو
مليار وثلاثمائة وثمانية وعشرين مليون برميل تقريبا. pic.twitter.com/VsrhlOScGW
— Ahmed Kulaib (@AmkConsul) February 23, 2023
No news. Nothing from UN, nothing from Boskalis. Nautica remains anchored in Djibouti. Only another supply ship joined Smit salvage vessels Ndeavor and Aden next to Safer.
Arrival of Nautica and start of pumping was/is expected for this week. There just might be some technical issues, but these would be reported.
So all i can think of is a lull in activities due to diplomatic activities paving the way/calming the seas for Nautica to sail and Smit salvage to start pumping away the oil into the Nautica.
Maybe some issues concerning the formal handover of Nautica to Sepoc (de jure owned by IRG (government in exile), de facto owned by DFA (Houthi)) once it enters the waters of Ras Isa, or concerning the sale of oil, or sale of scrap metal.
— South24 | English (@South24E) June 20, 2023
But all this is speculation. Noteworthy is the sudden visit of high placed Houthi’s to Saudi Arabia, in order to fullfil hajj in Mecca. According to some reports in sharp contrast to a prohibition by the same Houthi-authorities only a month ago.
Meanwhile dive into a recap of insurance issues on safer dedicated website makesaferbetter.
Nautica still anchored in Djibouti. Another Smit salvage ship has arrived from the Gulf to Ras Isa, next to Ndeavor, to assist in the pumping operation. Rumours the pumping will start 19th of june, coming monday. Nautica can reach Ras Isa in about a day, from Djibouti.
NAUTICA is still not alongside the FSO Safer, but the SMIT-owned tug SL ADEN out of Sharjah is now beside the NDEAVOR as it goes about the business of preparing the vessel for transfer pic.twitter.com/Qv1MkNtvGr
— Nick Brumfield (@NickJBrumfield) June 14, 2023
Meanwhile Dutch company EEC yesterday transmitted their ‘interest in collaborating with the United Nations and take charge of the vessel’s recycling process.’
The recycling should take place in Arabian Shipbuilding & Repair Yard (ASRY) in Bahrain, apparently the only place in the vicinity licensed and capable of doing this environmentally responsible. Work would be carried out by Bahrain based Crown Industries.
The EEC (Elegant Exit Company) writes in their press statement they will ’transform the FSO SAFER into an opportunity for positive change. Our team and partners possess the necessary expertise in converting materials into new Green Steel.’
Scrapping the Safer is part of phase 2 of the operation. Though recently figures of 17 million dollar surfaced in press publications, the scrap was originally estimated by the UN at 10 million. These earnings would be used to partly pay for phase 2, the scrapping process amounting to 29 million. For this phase another 15 million is still needed by the UN.
Notes from the press conference in The Hague, venue of the larger Yemen International Forum. In this some three hundred Yemenis from the diaspora and some from Yemen itself gather to discuss problems and solutions in their homecountry, for four days.
According to David Gressly (UNDP -Yemen) the salvage operation was moving along smoothly. Gressly was again thankfull to the skeleton crew of the Safer, whom in 2019 prevented the Safer from sinking. ‘Which would have been very serious.’
Boskalis ceo Peter Berdowski said Smit salvage was pleasantly surprised as to the condition of the FSO Safer, thanks to its crew. But: ’this is not to say the vessel is in good condition. It is the worst example we ve ever seen. All of the tanks held oyxgen and a little spark could have ingnited everything, starting a real disaster.’
Boskalis/Smit is now determining if the hull is strong enough for the shiptoship transfer, where the bodies have to touch each other. The crew, Berdowski said, is convinced it is, only there is still a need for underwater surveys.
These underwater surveys seem to be a sensitive thing. This sensitivity was not elaborated, other than that discussions with the (Sanaa) authorities are ongoing. ‘I m sure we will find a way to put those into procedure, also for insurance issues.’
David Gressly emphasised and reiterated several times the local cooperation in both Hudaidah and Sana’a (of the Sana’a authorities, aka Houthi’s) was good. However there still were ‘few steps to take’ as the Nautica had to cruise into ‘a war risk zone’.
According to several media articles the insurance package involving 13 underwriters and more than onehundred advisors has been finalised today 13 th of june. Good story on this in the Times
At the time of writing Nautica has not set sail yet, is still anchored in Djibouti.
Sana’a authorities meanwhile do patrol the waters around the operation, as shown in tweet below..
MAY 30 @GettyImages pics show a Houthi Aseef-3 boat w/ a DHsK HMG patrolling near the FSO Safer vessel in Ras Issa, Al-Hudaydah, #Yemen. Although the Aseef-3 featured a Chinese Type 63 107mm rocket launcher at the Houthis’ SEP 2022 military parade, it was absent on this boat. pic.twitter.com/nxdpC7TAlZ
— Joshua Koontz (@JoshuaKoontz__) June 12, 2023
On recurring rumours Safer was emptied of crude long ago Berdowski confirmed crude present in its hull amounts to ‘slightly above 1 million barrels’.
The quality of the oil was still to be determined. ‘We dont know the substance, how the oil behaves, if it is easy pumpable. We have two pumps, one for heavy and one for light. Job could be done in two weeks, up to four weeks. Cleaning the tanks, pumping up the residue. Disconnecting and towing away.’
No news on the funding gap of 28 million dollars, other than Gressly was approaching the sector and confident it will be bridged. Businessman Fati Fahem online from Sana’a said contributions from Sana’a bussineses are not to be expected. ‘I dont think so, it is not easy right now and this would take a longer time, while there is no time to waste.’
Surprising fact from the Yemen International Forum: 90% of participants haven’t lived in Yemen for 9 years! Strange to see them dedicating 3 days to discuss solutions for a country they visited a decade ago. #Yemen #UNSC#UN @OSE_Yemen #YIF_2023 @SanaaCenter #SanaaCenter
— Murad (مــراد العواسي) (@MuradAbdo22) June 12, 2023
No news so far from Ndeavor, Safer and Ras Isa today. Only a link to a video by Boskalis, clipping this weeks works into 1:45 mn
Main source Hiemstra has moved from supply ship Ndeavor next to FSOSafer to the lands near Hodeidah, for conducting the remaining part of the operation from the ground. We will miss his footage and pieces of news dearly.
Hiemstra left by helicopter, in his place the helicopter brought extra crew aboard the Ndeavor, needed for the next phase of the salvage operation: pumping the oil from Safer into Nautica.
The helicopter landing -midway between Djibouti and Ndeavor- in the port city of Hodeidah was news in itself, as the the airport has not been used for eight years. This signals peace, however elsewhere on the socials, forums and news outlets we find enough signals of the resumption of war.
Back to the topic FSO Safer: we are awaiting news declaring the inner compartments of Safer safe from inflammable gases and vapours, and ready for transfer of oil.
So far VLCC Nautica remains anchored in Djibouti.
Meanwhile enjoy some nice new footage in this UN-publication
Or a clip from Boskalis on Linkedin
Work on FSO Safer progresses steadily. Smit salvage this weekend berthed their ship Ndeavor alongside Safer and attached a staircase to move to and fro more easily.
After which the crane lifted the machinery and gastanks from Ndeavor and hoisted them onboard Safer. By inflating inert gas into the tanks the accumulated vapours and inflammable gases will be neutralised.
Safers has 34 separate compartments, of which only the seventeen in the middle are thought to be filled with crude.
A massive build-up of @beleefboskalis on the deck of the #FSOSafer: IG (Inert Gas) and STS (Ship To Ship) equipment mostly #StopRedSeaSpill pic.twitter.com/RJ2rl0Vv9j
— Janthomas Hiemstra (@JTHSurge) June 4, 2023
On the political side Mohammed Al-Houthi, brother of leader Abdul-Malik Badruldeen al-Houthi, commented on the ongoing operation through DailyYemen.
Mohammed al Houthi is the more worldly spokesperson and member of the Supreme Political Council, which governs the Houthi territory in North-Yemen.
‘Al-Houthi emphasised the necessity for the new tanker to carry out oil export missions, considering that failing to do so would amount to terrorism against the Yemeni people by tightening the blockade, which he described as “criminal” and implemented by the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.’
Nice overview from the helicopter deck (without heli)… today the inerting of the #FSOSafer oil tanks gets into full swing #StopRedSeaSpill pic.twitter.com/dLN3F0Wq2W
— Janthomas Hiemstra (@JTHSurge) June 5, 2023
Halfway month of may Houthi media al-Masirah reported on ’the failure of the donors conference’.
Also the ‘Nautica, which was bought for rescue, was found to be dilapidated, which prompted the Ministry of Transport in Sana’a to demand that it be examined before entering Yemen’s waters’
According to al- Masirah ‘an oil source in Sana’a confirmed that the shipment carried by ‘Safer’ belongs to foreign companies working in the production of Yemen’s oil’
In the article al-Masirah furthermore quoted the Sana’a government/DFA/aka Houthi saying ’the ship’s operating crew reaches 700 employees, including technicians, engineers and others in various specialties. It accused the US-Saudi aggression and the Saudi-backed government of targeting the reservoir since it instructed its subsidiary Safer Company in Marib, to reduce workers to only six. On November 8, 2016, the Saudi-led aggression issued a decision to prevent the arrival of the 3,000-ton diesel ship, Rama 1, which is related to supplying the floating ship Safer, according to an official letter from the Public Authority for Maritime Affairs, Hodeidah Branch.’
Not much news on the remaining 14 million dollars needed for the first (pumping) phase and 15 million dollars for the second (towing away safer and connecting Nautica) phase of the operation, or it must be a 2 million dollar donation from Kuwait. Whether this is a new pledge or a reiteration of earlier pledge is unclear to me.
#Kuwait is committed to supporting UN efforts in addressing #FSOSafer oil tanker by contributing $2 million USD to the Safer Fund in order to avert an environmental disaster. https://t.co/aGBXs6mdzq
— Nawaf Alenezi (@NawafNafe3) June 5, 2023
Work is 6AM to 6PM on the #FSOSafer during this preparatory phase. Long days for the specialists of @beleefboskalis. Once the oil is pumping it will be 24/7. #StopRedSeaSpill @UNDP pic.twitter.com/ypX1ROdQFC
— Janthomas Hiemstra (@JTHSurge) June 4, 2023
June 2- Safer safe from inflammable gases and vapours
According to Jan Thomas Hiemstra -head of operation from the part of UNDP- the old decaying oiltanker Safer is now safe to enter.
In a clip on Twitter Hiemstra is moving himself onto Safer ‘with a number of visitors, because safer is safe from gases and we can come across.’
My chance to jump in the basket between #FSOSafer and #Ndeavor: very windy so the sound is not too good… sorry #StopRedSeaSpill pic.twitter.com/sa4aFNmZPU
— Janthomas Hiemstra (@JTHSurge) June 2, 2023
Wednesday and thursday experts from Smit salvage inspected the ship and its contents. It is not known (to me) if the experts found inflammable gases and if inert gases were used to neutralise those,
but apparently all dangers have now been removed. This would mean there is no more danger of the Safer exploding and covering the Red Sea and neighbouring lands with soot.
On Boskalis website Smit salvage explains after Safer was ‘declared safe to access, a number of operational steps were initiated. This included loading of mobile inert gas generators and conducting inspections of the FSO and its deck machinery as well as structural hull assessments. It is expected that the Ndeavor will soon be able to berth alongside the Safer after which further preparations will continue. ‘
Boskalis also published a video to illustrate proceedings.
Being safe from explosions does not mean Safer cannot leak or break and crude will spill into the Red Sea, so work continues. Working conditions meanwhile are tough …
Scorching hot on the deck of the old #FSOSafer checking and laying pipes, connectors and powerlines @beleefboskalis #StopRedSeaSpill pic.twitter.com/Q1m3y6zIW3
— Janthomas Hiemstra (@JTHSurge) June 2, 2023
No news or further details about the volatile political arena in which the work is done, though according to Hiemstra all happened ‘under full cooperations of the Yemeni authorities’. Unclear if Hiemstra means Sana’a or Aden Authorities, or both.
My favorite panorama view of the #FSOSafer from the #Ndeavor: airconditioned… the gents of @beleefboskalis are sweating out there in 40C+ temperatures… #StopRedSeaSpill pic.twitter.com/G4OXKYwghN
— Janthomas Hiemstra (@JTHSurge) June 2, 2023
The operation is drawing a lot of attention of the media worldwide, now the operation is in full swing.
Media attention was much sought for previously by the UN, to raise funds. Today 29 million is still needed, 14 million for this phase, 15 million to tow away the empty Safer and dismantle it in a environmentally friendly way.
(Hard) hat off to Mustafa my friend and @UNDP colleague who is our liaison on the #FSOSafer meditating and translating between @beleefboskalis and Safer crew #StopRedSeaSpill pic.twitter.com/i2g9JMFUCU
— Janthomas Hiemstra (@JTHSurge) June 2, 2023
Concerning the profits of the crude in Safer, according to Yemeni expert Abdul Ghani Gaghman roughly 866.000 (75%, where usually a figure of 90% is given) of the 1,14 million barrels crude inside Safer belong to the Government of Yemen. The rest (274.000 barrels) belongs to a number of Yemeni and foreign companies, see below.
Spokesmen from the UN nuanced this by saying oil has changed hands since 2015
Statistics shows the owner of the oil in the SAFER FSO with the quantity of the oil in bbls . .. the rest is belong to GOY #FSOSafer #SAFER@GreenpeaceAR@OCCRP@CARPObonn @holmakhdar pic.twitter.com/ebqJDRGXMG
— AbdulGhani Gaghman (@1Gaghman) June 2, 2023
Interesting backreading in this respect is an article ngo Greenpeace published last year, in which it concluded western oilcompanies have profited from FSOSafer for many years, still owning crude inside the tanker.
For more technical information you can surf to the boskalisblog though they are relatively slow in updating. There you can also find a link to their account on Flickr, with some great shots. Boskalis has taken a professional cameraman along the trip, just as they did when they rescued the Ever Given in 2021.
June 1-Pressbriefing 30 may (highlights)
UN-coordinator David Gressly reported live into the press conference, from aboard Ndeavor, the base ship Smit salvage uses in the rescue operation. Ndaevor is anchored close to Safer. Communication via Starlinks satellites went smoothly, ‘allthough it sometimes skips’, Gressly remarked.
Head of operation Jan Thomas Hiemstra was present in the background. Hiemstra now and then posts imagery from the Safer site on twitter, footage which is used to illustrate this blog.
Generators and other equipment is being loaded today and inspections are continuing under full cooperations of the Yemeni authorities pic.twitter.com/RHl2jkrXFY
— Janthomas Hiemstra (@JTHSurge) June 1, 2023
According to Achim Steiner -coordinating for UNDP-New York- an insurance package on the operation only materialised 36hrs before the operation started, ‘working against the clock in intense negotiations with several different insurance companies. But there still is no absolute safety web.’
There had been friendly collaboration by ships around Hodeidah, but not one ship has accompanied Ndeavor entering Ras Isa, where Safer is anchored. ‘We cannot enter the area with a flotilla of naval ships.’
The #FSOSafer is one of the largest oil tankers ever built: an Ultra Large Crude Carrier… better believe it!!! #StopRedSeaSpill pic.twitter.com/aQaB5PtwTH
— Janthomas Hiemstra (@JTHSurge) May 31, 2023
According to David Gressly the Sana’a authorities (aka Houthis) are not directly involved in the operation other than ‘by securing the area. And we communicate in great detail, so they are comfortable. We are absolutely depending on the confidence and trust of the Sana’a authorities.’
Speaking on finances Steiner said the UN -in particular UNDP- had taken ‘a decision we normally would not take.’ Former Yemen envoy Griffiths -now unders secretary of OCHA, the relief department of UN- is bridging the funding through OCHA.
According to Steiner pledges of 114 million dollar have now been made, leaving the operation 14 million short. ‘We are hopeful the 14 million remaining will be found soon.’
Steiner called the 114 million remarkable, but ‘when you see moments of profability in the oil business, you wonder why no one else steps forward.’ Steiner and his office keep telephoning CEO’s for help ‘because even schoolchildren in Maryland’ are helping.
Another 15 million (previously this was 19 million) is needed for phase II: the towing of Safer to a site where it can be dismantled ‘environment friendly’. According to Steiner the bidding process of towing the Safer away was now underway.
Answering a media question Steiner said the sale of the crude inside Safer would not cover the cost op the operation. Much is uncertain about quantity and quality of the crude.
Gressly said the eventual sale of the crude ‘would take months. Aden and Sana’a are open to the oil being sold for the benefit of the people of Yemen’, but legal issues remain.
According to Gressly the crude is for 90% owned by the Government of Yemen and 10% is ‘residually’ owned. ‘Some issues with the Sana’a authorities are yet to be solved.’
Gressly met the ‘skeleton’crew onboard the Safer that morning and had congratulated them with keeping the ship afloat and rescueing the situation for the past eight years.
Gressly estimated the inspection of the ship and preparation for oil transfer to take ten days, two weeks. After which the oil can be transfered. ‘Until end of june, beginning of july.’
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