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Zein Marwan
Zein Marwan

The History and Evolution of Tanker Design and Technology


Tanker: An Overview




A tanker is a ship designed to transport or store liquids or gases in bulk within its cargo spaces. There are different types of tankers depending on the nature and quantity of the cargo they carry. Some of the most common types are oil tankers, chemical tankers, gas carriers, and product tankers. Oil tankers transport crude oil from oil fields to refineries or petroleum products from refineries to distribution centers. Chemical tankers carry various chemicals that require special handling and equipment. Gas carriers transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) under high pressure or low temperature. Product tankers carry refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, or fuel oil. Tankers play a vital role in the global economy and energy supply chain. They enable the efficient and cost-effective movement of large volumes of liquids and gases across long distances. They also facilitate the trade and integration of different regions and markets. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in 2020 tankers accounted for about 28% of the world's total seaborne trade by tonnage and about 52% by value. History of tankers




The concept of transporting liquids in bulk by sea emerged in the late 19th century as a result of the development of oil refining and the growth of oil demand. The first oil tankers were converted sailing ships that carried oil in wooden barrels or iron tanks. In 1876, Ludvig and Robert Nobel, brothers of Alfred Nobel, founded Branobel (short for Brothers Nobel) in Baku, Azerbaijan. It was one of the largest oil companies in the world at that time and pioneered the use of steam-driven tankers with steel hulls and pumps. The modern oil tanker was developed in the period from 1877 to 1885. The first purpose-built oil tanker was Zoroaster, launched in Sweden in 1878 for Branobel. It had a capacity of 242 tons and could carry oil in two iron tanks separated by a bulkhead. The first ocean-going oil tanker was Vaderland, built in England in 1873 for the American-Belgian Red Star Line. It had a capacity of 3,500 tons and could carry oil in four cylindrical tanks. Since then, tankers have evolved significantly in terms of size, design, technology, and safety. Some of the major milestones and innovations in tanker history are: - In 1886, Glückauf became the first tanker with a raised forecastle deck to protect the crew from waves and weather. - In 1892, Murex became the first tanker to pass through the Suez Canal. - In 1902, Thomas W. Lawson became the world's first sailing tanker with seven masts. - In 1909, Deutschland became the first diesel-powered tanker. - In 1914, Brucia became the first tanker to use a submerged propeller instead of a paddle wheel. - In 1921, West Zeda became the first tanker with a bulbous bow to reduce water resistance. - In 1938, Batillus became the first supertanker with a capacity of over 100,000 deadweight tons (DWT). - - In 1959, Methane Pioneer became the first LNG carrier to transport liquefied natural gas across the Atlantic Ocean. - In 1966, Torrey Canyon became the first major oil tanker disaster, causing a massive oil spill off the coast of Cornwall, England. - In 1979, Knock Nevis became the largest tanker ever built, with a capacity of 564,763 DWT and a length of 458 meters. - In 1989, Exxon Valdez became one of the worst oil tanker accidents in history, spilling about 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. - In 1993, Erika became the first tanker to use a double hull, a design that reduces the risk of oil leakage in case of hull damage. - In 2003, Prestige became the first tanker to sink while carrying heavy fuel oil, causing a major environmental disaster off the coast of Spain. - In 2016, MOL Triumph became the first ultra large container ship (ULCS) to surpass 20,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in capacity. - In 2020, Nave Andromeda became the first tanker to be involved in a hijacking attempt by stowaways off the coast of England. Tanker market and trends




The tanker market is influenced by various factors such as supply and demand of oil and gas, freight rates and costs, market cycles and seasonality, geopolitical events and conflicts, and regulatory and policy changes. The tanker market is also characterized by high volatility and uncertainty due to the complex and dynamic nature of these factors. According to Clarksons Research, in 2020 the global tanker fleet consisted of about 15,000 vessels with a total capacity of about 600 million DWT. The largest segment was crude oil tankers, accounting for about 40% of the fleet by number and about 60% by capacity. The second largest segment was product tankers, accounting for about 30% by number and about 20% by capacity. The third largest segment was gas carriers, accounting for about 20% by number and about 10% by capacity. The remaining segments were chemical tankers, asphalt/bitumen tankers, vegetable oil tankers, and wine tankers. The following table shows the breakdown of the global tanker fleet by type and size as of January 2021: Tanker Type Size Range (DWT) Number of Vessels Total Capacity (DWT) ----------- ---------------- ----------------- -------------------- Crude Oil Tankers VLCC (200,000+) 810 246.4 million Crude Oil Tankers Suezmax (120,000-200,000) 573 88.8 million Crude Oil Tankers Aframax (80,000-120,000) 799 74.7 million Crude Oil Tankers Panamax (60,000-80,000) 559 38.5 million Crude Oil Tankers Handysize (10,000-60,000) 1,113 37.9 million Product Tankers LR2 (80,000-120,000) 255 24.1 million Product Tankers LR1 (55,000-80,000) 392 25.8 million Product Tankers MR (25,000-55,000) 1,571 58.7 million Product Tankers Handysize (10,000-25,000) 1,798 29.5 million Gas Carriers LNG (50,000+) 596 34.4 million Gas Carriers LPG (10,000-50,000) 1,393 22.6 million Chemical Tankers LR2 (80,000+) 14 1.1 million Chemical Tankers LR1 (45,000-80,000) 83 Chemical Tankers LR1 (45,000-80,000) 83 5.3 million Chemical Tankers MR (25,000-45,000) 494 16.9 million Chemical Tankers Handysize (10,000-25,000) 1,057 17.6 million Other Tankers Various 1,028 13.4 million Total - 15,043 599.7 million Source: Clarksons Research The tanker market experienced a turbulent year in 2020 due to the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global oil and gas demand and supply. The pandemic caused a sharp decline in oil consumption and a collapse in oil prices, leading to a glut of oil inventories and a surge in tanker demand for storage and floating storage. This resulted in record-high freight rates and earnings for tankers in the first half of the year, especially for VLCCs and LR2s. However, the tanker market reversed in the second half of the year as oil production cuts by OPEC+ and other producers reduced the availability of cargoes and increased the competition among tankers. Moreover, the recovery of oil demand was slow and uneven due to the resurgence of COVID-19 cases and the implementation of lockdown measures in many countries. This resulted in record-low freight rates and earnings for tankers in the second half of the year, especially for MRs and Handysizes. The outlook for the tanker market in 2021 remains uncertain and challenging due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the evolving dynamics of the oil and gas market. According to Clarksons Research, the tanker demand is expected to grow by 3.4% in 2021, driven by the gradual recovery of oil consumption and trade as the vaccination programs and stimulus measures boost the global economic activity and mobility. However, the tanker supply is also expected to grow by 3.2% in 2021, driven by the high level of newbuilding deliveries and low level of scrapping. This implies that the tanker market will remain oversupplied and depressed in 2021, with low freight rates and earnings for most tanker segments. Some of the key factors and challenges that will affect the tanker market in 2021 and beyond are: - The pace and extent of the recovery of oil demand and supply from the COVID-19 pandemic, which will depend on the effectiveness of the vaccination programs, the easing of lockdown measures, the stimulus policies, and the consumer behavior. - The compliance and coordination of OPEC+ and other producers with their production cuts or increases, which will affect the availability and price of oil cargoes and the balance between long-haul and short-haul trades. - The geopolitical tensions and conflicts in some key oil-producing regions, such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Yemen, which will pose risks to oil supply disruptions and tanker security. - The environmental regulations and policies that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, such as IMO 2020 (low-sulfur fuel regulation), IMO 2030 (carbon intensity reduction target), IMO 2050 (greenhouse gas reduction target), EU ETS (emission trading system), EEXI (energy efficiency existing ship index), CII (carbon intensity indicator), etc., which will increase operational costs and require technological innovations for tankers. - The digitalization and automation of tanker operations and management, such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, internet of things, smart sensors, etc., which will enhance efficiency, transparency, safety, and sustainability for tankers. Tanker safety and environmental issues




Tanker operations involve various risks and hazards that can threaten human lives, property, environment, and reputation. Some of the common risks and hazards associated with tanker operations are: - Fire and explosion, which can occur due to the ignition of flammable vapors or liquids in t


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