Two weeks after a deal to salvage a stricken bulker drifting off Yemen after a fatal missile strike, it is still not safe at port after a litany of snags.

Spokespersons for the unidentified Middle Eastern owners of the 50,400-dwt True Confidence (built 2011) confirmed in an e-mail on Thursday that the salvage operation has been “hampered by several challenges” and “remains underway … with the intention” to get the vessel to Duqm, Oman.

According to the statement, one of the problems afflicting the operation has been “tug reliability”.

This seems to indirectly confirm information obtained earlier in the week by TradeWinds that the tug initially sent to do the job broke down and had to be assisted itself.

Some industry sources saw the breakdown as vindicating their criticism of the owners’ choice to contract the tug on a daily hire basis rather than a Lloyd’s Open Form salvage contract.

The towage hire option usually offers underwriters more certainty over costs.

This, however, was only the beginning of the operation’s problems.

Lack of suitable tug alternatives “due to safety fears of tug operators” led owners and managers to hire the services of the 5,150-bhp Hercules (built 2009), whose United Arab Emirates-based operator Swedish Management is under US sanctions against Iran.

That snag was swiftly dealt with after the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control granted special dispensation to allow the use of the Hercules in this case.

The Hercules set out to tow the True Confidence towards the nearby port of Djibouti, where the 17 survivors of the ship had already been evacuated shortly after the Houthis attacked them on 6 March.

Authorities in Djibouti, however, refused to grant the vessel port of refuge, citing security concerns.

This forced salvors to head in the opposing direction, instead, to Duqm.

“Due to the complex nature of the salvage, and ongoing security concerns, no ETA [estimated time of arrival] is being publicised,” the owner’s statement said.

Throughout its travails, the True Confidence has caused no environmental pollution so far — either after the attack or during the salvage.

The vessel was struck 50 nautical miles (93 km) southwest of the port city of Aden in a Houthi missile attack that killed three of its crew.

They were the first seafarer fatalities of the Red Sea crisis.

More than 70 vessels crossing the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden have been attacked, harassed or hijacked by the Houthis since mid-November — as part of the Yemeni group’s campaign to force Israel and its Western allies to pull back on the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The True Confidence is commercially managed from Piraeus. TradeWinds, however, understands the interests behind the ship are Lebanese.