Maritime Topics On Stamps :
Tanker - Tankshipping !
- 1859 For the first time ever, a well in Pennsylvania produced four tons
of oil per day. Colonel Drake’s drilling rig reached down to a depth of 23
- 1865 Oil production in Russia amounted to 16,500 tons; in America in
excess of 70,000 tons.
- 1938 Worldwide production reached 255 million tons.
- 1950 Worldwide production was 524 million tons.
- 1969 Worldwide production reached 2.3 billion tons.
- 2003 Worldwide production was 3.6 billion tons.
The world’s first transatlantic steam tankship was built in 1886 for the
German ship owner W.A.Riedemann, the ‘Glückauf’, shown on the stamp at right.
Shortly thereafter the Swedish ‘Petrola’ was delivered, built according to
the same principle with its hull subdivided into various compartments, i.e.
the tanks. For the sake of safety, engine and boiler rooms were positioned
protected by a fireproof bulkhead. Specs of the ‘Glückauf’: Length 318 feet,
beam 37 feet, draft 19 feet, 3000 tons deadweight, speed 9-11 knots.
1887 Already 17 steam tankships trading between the USA and Europe.
1892 Tank steamer ‘Murex’ delivered to British owners Samuel & Samuel. Shown
on the Singapore stamp at left, the ‘Murex’ became the first tanker to
transit the Suez Canal.
1897 The shipping company evolves into Shell Oil. Specs of the ‘Murex’:
length 338’, beam 43’, draft 26’, 3564 GRT.
The turn of the century saw many sailing vessels employed in the oil trade.
The world’s only seven-masted schooner ‘Thomas W. Lawson’, built 1902, was
reconstructed for the carriage of oil in bulk during 1905. (Stamp on right.)
Following two years in the U.S. coastal trade, it embarked on its first and
last transatlantic crossing, loaded with 58,300 barrels of lube oil. The
stormy voyage took six weeks and ended on Friday, the 13th of December 1907
on the rocks of the Scilly Isles, resulting in the first case of oil
pollution in the Channel, exactly 60 years prior to the ‘Torrey Canyon’.
This stamp with side views of several tankers shows the years in operation as
1890, 1910, 1930, 1950, 1962, and 1968. The bottom line indicates the ships’
lengths from 0 to 1000 feet. (For comparison, the world’s largest tanker was
built in 1980 with a length of 1,504 feet.)
All vessels have their engine accommodations located aft; by the mid-1960s
the bridge was positioned aft as well. Tankers require no loading gear as
their cargoes are moved by pumps.
During World War 2 the United States built a series of 525 tankers for its
needs and those of its Allies. They were usually called ‘T-2 tankers’
although the exact designation was ‘T2-SE-A1’, in later stages ‘T3-S2-A1’.
Their specs: Length 502’, beam 68’, 9,900 GRT, 15,850 DWT. The stamp depicts
the ‘USS Platte’ which represents the slighly larger ‘T-3’ type with 18,300
Five sisterships were built between 1960-63 of this Polish 19,000 DWT
The tanks are arranged by threes. To the left and right of the large center
tanks are the side tanks -- very important at sea for reasons of stability.
There is no division towards above; none have a double bottom. Heating coils
inside the tanks keep heavy fuel oil liquid enough to be pumpable for loading
and discharging. Engines are located at the stern, protected by a bulkhead
towards the tanks, sometimes by double bulkheads filled with cooling water.
Above the weather deck, elevated walkways were installed to reach the
forecastle from the aft superstructure while at sea.
The Greek 'Olympic Garland'
73.966 tdw, built 1965
- Tanker’s Rule of Thumb: The larger the ship the cheaper the cost of
- In 1952 a 28,000 DWT tanker carried a ton of oil 35% cheaper than a T-2 tanker.
- During the 1950s and ‘60s the tanker tycoons Aristoteles Onassis, Stavros
Niarchos, and Daniel K. Ludwig competed with each other building ever larger tankers.
- In 1952 ‘Tina Onassis’ is the world’s largest tanker with 45,270 DWT. Only
a few months later, D.K.Ludwig’s ‘Sinclair Petrol’ trumps her fame with 59,081 DWT.
- 1956 Closure of the Suez Canal. The sea passage from the Persian Gulf to
Europe increases by 5,000 nautical miles.
- 1959 The ‘Universe Apollo’ becomes the first tanker with just over
100,000 DWT. Construction costs amount to 50% of what a 20,000 ton vessel
cost just a short while before, transportation cost per ton of oil is down to 35%.
- 1960 Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and Venezuela join together to
create OPEC, controlling 80% of the world’s oil production.
- 1966 The ‘Idemitsu Maru’ with 206,106 DWT is the first tanker to exceed
200,000 tons; becoming the very first VLCC (=Very Large Crude Carrier).
- 1967 until 1973 are ‘golden years’ for tanker owners, annual profits often
exceed eight times the amount of operating expenses.
- 1968 The ‘Universe Ireland’ with its 326,585 DWT becomes the first tanker in
excess of 300,000 tons deadweight, giving birth to the designation of ULCC
(=Ultra Large Crude Carrier).
The hulls of some early specimen among these giants start showing signs of
stress and metal fatigue.
The 'Idemitsu Maru',
the first VLCC
- 1971 Seventy-two new VLCCs are entering service, altogether 208 VLCCs are
- 1973 OPEC increases the cost of oil by 70%. Yom Kippur War breaks out, and
the Suez Canal is closed again.
- 1974 A crisis situation develops in the tanker sector worldwide, yet still
another 100 VLCCs per year are under construction.
- 1975 Worldwide oil consumption decreases by 8%. Newbuilding orders are
being cancelled, 85 tankers are placed into layup.
- 1976 The ‘Batillus’ with 550,001 DWT becomes the first tanker to exceed
half-a-million tons deadweight.
- 1977 Several tanker owning companies go ‘belly-up’, shipyards are in
- 1978 Some of the the earliest VLCCs are being scrapped.
The 'Korean Sun',
267.038 tdw, built 1975
The ‘Nissei Maru’, built 1976.
484,442 DWT, 238,517 GRT,
Length 1,247 feet, beam 203 feet,
draft 92 feet,
Gas turbine propulsion,
14.5 knots speed
- 1980 Hong Kong ship owner C.Y.Tung’s ‘Seawise Giant’ with 564,839 DWT is
the largest tanker and the largest man-made structure in the world. After
just two voyages goes into layup and serves as storage vessel later on. Sold
to Norway and re-named ‘Jahre Viking’. Specs: Length 1,504’, beam 226’, draft 98’,
260,851 GRT, 13 knots.
- 1980-88 Gulf War between Iran and Iraq, tankers under attack.
- 1984 210 tankers are in layup, representing 43% of the world’s tanker fleet.
ULCCs have become uneconomical.
- 1986 To this date 283 VLCCs have been sold for scrap.
- 1987 Supply and demand for tankers have found their balance; oil
prices and freight rates are on the increase.
- 1992 Again a surplus of VLCCs on the market. Freight rates sinking again.
- 1996 The 1,000th VLCC is being delivered, the ‘Meridian Lion’. Altogether
six vessels with more than 500,000 DWT have been constructed over the last 20 years.
Their size did become a problem in several aspects, after all. As seen on
these stamps, not while loading: VLCCs moored at some pipeline terminal at
piers or loading buoys far out at sea. But their draft of 26 to 29 meters
precluded entry into most European ports. As an alternative, discharge often
took place at Lyme Bay/Bantry Bay with lightering into smaller ‘shuttle tankers’.
The worst tanker accidents, many of them due to human error:
- 1967 The ‘Torrey Canyon’ runs onto a reef and breaks apart, 117,000 tons
of oil are leaked into the sea, resulting in disastrous oil pollution. (see stamps)
- 1969 Three tankers explode while in ballast condition, ‘Marpessa’,
‘Mactra’ and ‘King Haakon VI’. The ‘Marpessa’ sink right away,
'Mactra' and ‘King Haakon VI’ were heavily damaged.
- 1974 ‘Metula’ runs aground in the Straits of Magellan, 50,000 tons of oil
- 1975 ‘Berge Istra’ with 227,557 DWT explodes and sinks within a few minutes.
- 1976 ‘Urquiola’ explodes and strands near La Coruna. 95,000 tons of oil
polluting the shore.
- 1978 ‘Amoco Cadiz’ grounds near Brest and breaks apart, spilling 223,000
tons of oil.
- 1979 ‘Atlantic Empress’ and ‘Aegean Captain’ collide in the Caribbean,
spilling 276,000 tons of oil.
- 1980 The burning tanker ‘Irene’s Serenade’ sinks in Navarino Bay,
emitting 100,000 tons.
- 1980 Three more VLCCs suffer explosions and immediate sinking, the
‘Maria Alejandra’, ‘Albahaa’, and ‘Mycene’.
- 1989 ‘Exxon Valdez’ runs aground on an Alaskan reef, spilling 42,000 tons,
resulting in disastrous pollution. The ‘Chark 5’ suffers an explosion off the
Canary Islands, losing 89,000 tons of oil.
- 1996 The ‘Sea Empress’ goes on the rocks near Milford Haven spilling
85,000 tons of oil.
- 1999 ‘Erika’ breaks apart in rough seas in the Bay of Biscay, spilling
17,000 tons of oil.
- 2002 The 'Prestige' breaks and sinks off the Spanish north-east coast. 70.000 tons
crude oil emit of the hull, rise up to the sea surface and pollute the coast on 300 km.
In 1990, following the ‘Exxon Valdez’ catastrophe, the United States enacted
the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) requiring the gradual introduction of tankers
with double hulls; i.e. not just with double bottoms but also double on both sides.
Further, liability limits for those found guilty of oil pollution were
raised to astronomical heights. The stamp shows the modern double-hulled Mobil Oil
tanker ‘Eagle’, built 1993, of 284,493 DWT. However, with full compliance of the
law as far away as 2015, and in view of the extra large costs involved in building
these ships, implementation is slow. Most tankers trading worldwide as of today are
still single-hulled vessels.
Gas tankers are vessels transporting liquified gases, such as propane or natural gas.
There are LPG tankers (liquified petroleum gas) and LNG tankers
(liquified natural gas). With refrigeration of minus-50 to minus-170 degrees
Celsius the gas becomes a liquid mass and its volume greatly reduced. Gas tankers
feature stainless-steel spherical tanks with diameters of 30-40 meters. The example
on the Norwegian stamp possesses a capacity of 125,000 cubic meters; other specs
are 964’ length, 138’ beam, 40’ draft; 73,074 tons deadweight; speed 20 knots.
Chemical tankers are specialty bottoms for the carriage of liquid chemicals
(occasionally even wine in bulk!). Special coatings protect the tank interiors from
the corrosive effects of these cargoes. The stamp at right depicts the ‘Stolt Spirit’
built in 1975, with 31,294 DWT, 588’ length, 89’ beam, 38’ draft, 16 knots speed.
Lastly, there are combination vessels built to carry a variety of cargoes in bulk,
oil among them. They are the ore-oilers (OOs) with oil tanks adjacent
and underneath the ore cargo holds; the ore-bulk-oil carriers (OBOs) capable
of transporting either oil, coal, grains, or ores to their full DWT capacity;
and even ore-bulk-container vessels (OBCs) sailing the Seven Seas.