Crude Oil Tanker: All You Need to Know

What is a crude oil tanker?

A crude oil tanker is a type of vessel used to transport crude oil and other petroleum products from the source to refineries or ports around the world.

These ships are designed to carry large volumes of oil, often in excess of 500,000 barrels per trip.

Crude oil tankers are strong and sturdy with double hulls and other safety features to prevent spills. They are highly specialized, equipped with pumps, pipelines, navigation, and communication systems to store and transport crude oil safely.

Types of crude oil tankers?

There are several types of crude oil tankers, each designed to meet specific requirements. The following are the most common types:

1. VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier): These tankers are the largest of their kind and can carry up to 2 million barrels of crude oil. They typically measure 330 meters in length and 60 meters in width.

2. Suezmax: These tankers can navigate through the Suez Canal and have a maximum capacity of 1 million barrels. They are typically 250 meters long and 45 meters wide.

3. Aframax: These tankers have a maximum capacity of 750,000 barrels and are used to transport crude oil between smaller ports. They are typically 170 meters in length and 25 meters in width.

4. Panamax: These tankers are designed to fit through the Panama Canal and have a maximum capacity of 500,000 barrels. They are typically 290 meters in length and 32 meters in width.

5. Handy Size: These are the smallest of crude oil tankers and are used to transport crude oil between ports that cannot accommodate larger vessels. They typically have a capacity of 25,000 to 35,000 tonnes and are 180 meters in length and 30 meters in width.

Oil tankers vs Crude oil tankers

While the terms “oil tanker” and “crude oil tanker” are often used interchangeably, there is actually a difference between the two.

An oil tanker is a broad term that refers to any ship designed to transport large quantities of oil, including crude oil, petroleum products, and liquefied natural gas (LNG). On the other hand, a crude oil tanker is a specific type of oil tanker that is designed to transport only crude oil.

Crude oil tankers typically have larger cargo holds and higher deadweight tonnage (DWT) capacity than other oil tankers, as crude oil is often transported in larger quantities.

Additionally, crude oil tankers are usually equipped with specialized equipment, such as heating coils and inert gas systems, to safely transport the volatile and flammable substances.

Also Read:

11 Things You Should Know About Cargo Ship

Who Can Own A Cargo Ship? (Explained)

What is it like to work on a cargo ship?

How much fuel does an oil tanker burn per hour?

The amount of fuel consumed by an oil tanker varies greatly on the tanker’s size, weight, speed, etc.

On average, a large crude oil tanker burns between 60 and 100 metric tons of fuel per day, translating to around 2 to 3.5 metric tons per hour.

Where do oil tankers unload?


The most common method of unloading oil from a tanker is through a process called ship-to-ship transfer. This involves transferring the oil from the tanker to a storage vessel located onshore or a larger vessel that can transport the oil to a refinery.


Oil tankers may be able to unload directly at a refinery if the facility has its own port. This method is less common, however, as many refineries are located inland and cannot accommodate large oil tankers.


This method is used primarily in areas where refineries are located close to ports.

Pipelines offer a more efficient and cost-effective way to transport crude oil, but they require a significant investment in infrastructure and are subject to regulatory oversight.

Here is a very good animated video to explain how oil tanker works

How long does it take to unload an oil tanker?

Unloading an oil tanker can take several hours to a few days, and is done by connecting the tanker to shore-based pipelines or offloading equipment.

This process may be delayed due to weather, port congestion, or technical issues, as well as safety and environmental regulations that may require additional procedures.

Are oil tankers bigger than cruise ships?

In general, supertankers are larger than the largest cruise ships.

For example, the largest oil tanker in the world, the Seawise Giant (previously named the Jahre Viking), measured over 1,500 feet in length and had a capacity of over 564,000 metric tons.

In comparison, the largest cruise ship in the world, Symphony of the Seas, is 1,188 feet long and can carry over 6,700 passengers and crew members.

Do oil takers return empty?

No, oil tankers do not return empty. After unloading their cargo, they are usually loaded with ballast water, which helps maintain stability and balance during their return journey.

This ballast water can come from any source, including seawater, and is often discharged at the next port of call.

In addition to ballast water, oil tankers may also carry other types of cargo on their return trip. For example, they may transport different grades of crude oil or petroleum products, such as diesel or gasoline.

Some oil tankers may also be used for shipping non-oil commodities, such as grain or chemicals.

Can a chemical tanker carry crude oil?

It may be possible for a chemical tanker to carry crude oil, it is not a common practice and is generally discouraged due to safety concerns and regulatory compliance issues

Crude oil is a different substance than the chemicals that chemical tankers are designed to carry. As a result, transporting crude oil on a chemical tanker could pose safety risks and may not be compliant with regulatory requirements.

Furthermore, chemical tankers are typically smaller than crude oil tankers, which means they may not have the capacity to carry the large volumes of crude oil needed to make transportation cost-effective.

Which company owns the most oil tankers

The Greek-based Angelicoussis Shipping Group. Founded in 1947 by Greek shipping magnate John Angelicoussis, the company has since grown to become one of the largest owners and operators of oil tankers in the world.

As of 2021, Angelicoussis Shipping Group owns a whopping 135 oil tankers, ranging from very large crude carriers (VLCCs) to smaller product tankers. In fact, the company’s fleet accounts for nearly 20% of all VLCCs in the world, making it a major player in the global oil shipping industry.

Other major players in the oil tanker market include companies like Euronav, Frontline, and Teekay, each with their own sizable fleets of tankers.

How much do crude oil tankers make?

Crude oil tankers are quite profitable, with some estimates indicating that they can make millions of dollars per year.

The exact amount a crude oil tanker earns depends on various factors, including its size, age, and the market demand for oil. However, in general, the bigger and newer the vessel, the more money it can earn.

Another crucial factor in determining the income of crude oil tankers is the route they take. Different regions have different demands and prices for oil, and a tanker’s destination and journey length can affect its profitability.

For example, tankers traveling from the Middle East to Asia tend to make more money than those going from Africa to Europe. Additionally, factors such as fuel costs, port fees, and maintenance expenses can impact the tanker’s profitability.

The cost of a crude oil tanker

As of 2021, a new crude oil tanker can cost anywhere from $100 million to $250 million, depending on the size and type of vessel. However, these costs are just the beginning. Once you purchase the tanker, you’ll also need to budget for maintenance, fuel, and crew salaries, among other expenses.

The cost of a used crude oil tanker can range anywhere from a few million dollars to upwards of $100 million, depending on its age and condition.

Is being a tanker a good job?

Being a tanker can be both rewarding and challenging at the same time.

Working on a tanker can be challenging. The job demands long hours of work and extended periods of time away from family and loved ones. Crew members also have to endure harsh weather conditions, physical strain, and isolation from the outside world.

On the brighter side, working on a tanker provides attractive salary packages and benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for water transportation workers was $56,920 in May 2020.

Tanker crew members typically earn even more, depending on their rank and experience. In addition, the job allows crew members to visit different parts of the world and experience diverse cultures.

How big is the crew of an oil tanker?

On average, the crew size ranges from 20 to 35 members. The crew includes officers, engineers, deckhands, and catering staff. Each crew member has a specific role to play in ensuring the vessel’s safe navigation and cargo handling.