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Oil transfer from abandoned ship to start soon: UN

DUBAI (AFP) – Salvage teams are close to starting the transfer of more than one million barrels of oil from a decaying tanker anchored off Yemen after two weeks of preparatory inspections, the United Nations (UN) said.

The FSO Safer, long used as a floating storage platform and now abandoned off the rebel-held Yemeni port of Hodeida, has not been serviced since the Arabian Peninsula country plunged into civil war more than eight years ago.

A team of experts last month started inspecting conditions aboard the vessel and kickstarted preparations for the operation intended to avert a major oil spill.

“I think we are getting very close to the point where we can start the ship-to-ship transfer which will be the next and perhaps most important phase,” the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly told a news conference in The Hague on Monday.

“We have a few steps to take care of in terms of insurance and other issues that we need to resolve before bringing in” a replacement vessel, he said.

The operation will see private company SMIT Salvage pump the oil from the Safer to the Nautica, a super-tanker the UN purchased for the operation, then tow away the empty tanker.

“After two weeks of inspection, our crew are convinced that the Safer is strong enough for such an operation,” said CEO Peter Berdowski of Boskalis, the parent company of SMIT Salvage.

“I think we are almost there. As far as we are concerned, we are ready to start the ship-to-ship transfer any day in the coming days.”

Technical vessels are seen by the decrepit Safer tanker off the coast of Yemen. PHOTO: AP