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UN To Begin Pumping Oil Out Of Decaying Tanker Off Yemen

A UN-led project to prevent a catastrophic explosion and oil spill offshore Yemen will start this week, with 1 million barrels of oil to being pumped out from a decaying tanker that has been sitting off the Middle Eastern country for years.

The replacement vessel Nautica left Djibouti this weekend en route to the site off Yemen, where the dilapidated tanker, the Safer, has been moored for years and has been at risk of exploding or breaking up at any time, the UN said on Saturday.

The tanker arrived at Hodeidah on Sunday, in preparation for unloading more than a million barrels of crude oil from the dilapidated Safer vessel, Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Bin Mubarak tweeted.

All technical preparations and agreements have been finalized, and the oil aboard the Safer will be pumped out in a ship-to-ship transfer that is expected to take about two weeks to complete, the UN said.  

The UN has been warning for years that the tanker off the Yemeni coast could explode or sink, in warnings that an environmental disaster and potential disruption of oil shipping routes around the Red Sea is waiting to happen.    

The Nautica very large crude carrier (VLCC) set sail in April from Zhoushan, China, as part of the United Nations coordinated operation to remove the oil from the FSO Safer supertanker.

The rescue tanker was secured in March by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and launched crowdfunding to secure donors for the rescue operation.

Speaking from aboard the Nautica, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly, said on Saturday: “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.”

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Last week, Gressly said, “The completion of the ship-to-ship transfer of the oil by the start of August will be a moment when the whole world can heave a sigh of relief,” adding that the “worst-case humanitarian, environmental and economic catastrophe from a massive oil spill will have been prevented.”  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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