A supertanker meets its end

I was intrigued to read an article at Zero Hedge titled “Oil Tanker Firms Scrap Most Ships In Three Decades“.  It seems current economic conditions are sending a lot of otherwise useful ships to the breakers, because they’re too costly to operate compared to more modern vessels.  The impending change in maritime pollution regulations is also taking its toll, as it can cost upwards of $5 million to fit a vessel with the necessary scrubbers to allow it to continue to use low-cost, high-polluting fuel.  If a ship’s barely economical to operate at present, its owners are unlikely to be willing to commit another $5 million to upgrade its exhaust system.

Of particular interest to me was a photograph of a 285,000-ton tanker, the Front Vanadis, on the beach at Chittagong in Bangladesh, where it’s being scrapped.  It was built in 1991.  I was struck by one of the photographs of the ship being scrapped.  It shows a large part of its starboard side cut away, revealing details of the oil tanks within.  Click the image for a larger view.

Having sailed a couple of the seven seas during my younger years, I knew that oil tankers had big baffle plates inside their tanks, to prevent the contents sloshing around during a storm and destabilizing the ship;  but I hadn’t seen them in such detail before.  It looks like they’re both horizontal and vertical in orientation, to control slop both up-and-down and side-to-side.

You can get an idea of the size of the ship (which was 1,063 feet long) by comparing it to the workers standing at the base of the hull (barely visible as dots in the smaller image above:  click to enlarge it to see them more clearly).  They’re part of the huge shipbreaking industry at Chittagong, which has attracted international attention due to its extremely dangerous working conditions.  As Auke Visser’s photographs show, dozens of vessels are being demolished there at any one time.  It’s an interesting way to get an “inside look” (literally) at how they’re made . . . and unmade, for that matter.



  1. You can tell it was swinging at anchor for some time before it got sent to the breakers, judging by the anchor chain wear in the bow plates.

    I wonder when that hole got punched in the bow, and how much flooding it caused? It's about 6 foot high, and 4 ft wide, judging by the men standing under it. Probably didn't help in the beaching process, with the bow riding lower than normal. Looking at the dented area around it, the impact seems to have been from an object with a corner, perhaps a waterlogged shipping container?

  2. Hmmm… WAY to clean around there. I've seen other photos of this wrecking yard, and it's a gigantic mess. This spotlessly clean locale makes me wonder why they would have – apparently – photoshopped this pic. No cranes, no trucks, no ladders or scaffolding, no piles of scrap…nothing.

    Maybe it's a postcard trying to promote the area?

  3. Hey Peter;

    Don't that look like the Greenpeace ship "Rainbow Warrior II"? Oops my bad, wrong ship same area 😉 That is an impressive pic of a huge ship being dismantled.

  4. Frontline Tankers is John Fredriksen's company. They're a publicly traded company, and the largest shipowner in the world. They're very proactive in terms of fleet management, and sort of are the pace-setter for tanker trade. Charter rates for crude have been abysmal for a few years, and new and upcoming environmental regulations are going to make it worse. I believe they're positioning themselves for the 2020 0.5% sulphur cap being placed on fuel along with ballast water treatment requirements.

    As for tank baffling, there is no standard to it, but it is critical. I believe this ship has 3-4 athwartship tanks, which is an older practice, but does help in terms of keeping free surface to a minimum. Speaking from experience, free surface effect can really mess with a ship's ride, even with well-baffled tanks.

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