Transporting Oil around the World

Tankers have carried oil around the world since the 1870s. As demand for oil grew, so did the ships. The largest oil tanker today is the ULCC class, or Ultra Large Crude Carrier, which can carry up to 2.5 million barrels of oil. VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers) transport roughly 2 million barrels of oil on a single voyage. Smaller tankers carry oil along coasts and inland waterways.

As a result of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, modern oil tankers are built with double hulls. If the outer hull is breached, the inner one will contain the cargo and prevent it from spilling.

VLCC Tanker Meridian Lion

Length: 1,085 ft

Breadth: 190 ft

Depth: 68 ft

Builder: Hyundai Heavy Industries, Ulsan, South Korea

Lent by the American Merchant Marine Museum of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York

Oil tanker Meridian Lion

The oil tanker Meridian Lion was built in 1997 and was still in service ten years later. It can transport 2,127,173 barrels of oil on a single voyage, making it a member of the VLCC class.

Meridian Lion plies the long-haul route from the Middle East to North America. Its double-hull construction helped on December 20, 2007, when it deliberately ran aground in the Suez Canal to avoid colliding with another oil tanker that had lost its steering. No oil was lost, and no one was injured on either vessel in the accident.

Oil Tankers

This video takes viewers behind the scenes aboard modern commercial vessels. See what life and work is like aboard oil tankers.

Produced by the History Channel