Development of todays tanker industry

The tanker industry in the early 21st century has much to be proud of but there are indications that the long term trend in improvement has flattened out if not reversed.  An excellent presentation by DNV covers this subject.  Link below.
 
 
 As a youngster serving at sea in the tanker industry in the 70's and 80's there seemed to be many' learning opportunities'.  With the benefit of hindsight it was an indication of an industry that with larger ships had greater capacity to cause environmental damage and was having too many incidents.   The ITOPF link below gives some indication of some of the disasters that are so much a part of my memory of that time.  My closest link to one of those incidents was as  a (small)  part of the salvage effort for the Christos Bitas
 
 
On the macro scale what changed from the 70's to the 90's:-
  • The oil price hikes of 1973 and 1979 pushed the world into recession and reduced the demand for oil and consequently for freight.  Changes in trade patterns also reduced tonne miles ( eg North Sea Oil)
  • Overbuilding in the early 1970's distorted the supply of tonnage for about 20 years.
  • The cost pressure from low freight rates and the  rise of trading put the operating costs of the tanker sector under the microscope.
  • Many of the oil majors retreated from tanker owning and the centre of gravity of tanker operating and manning moved east.
  • Traditional flag states declined and were replaced by flags of convenience some of whom were less concenred with quality
As an industry that tended towards gentle evolution the changes created a crisis of quality that saw ageing ships, limited maintenance, limited competence and limited assurance leading to some major disasters.
 
During this period some significant changes to hardware came from IMO including the change to SBT, inert gas, crude oil washing and ultimately double hull,  These changes as well as changes to manning through STCW should not be overlooked but the 90's saw some major changes to process and enforcement.
 
The concerns port states had over flag state regulation resulted in the development of port state control.  In conjunction with regional agreements such as the Paris MOU, targeting of inspections and the publication of 'black lists' of poor performing flags and classes, this put a premium on quality.
 
The development of oil major vetting added an extra layer to this assurance.  While the port state inspections were limited to regulation the oil major inspections could add on a layer that covered industry best practice as captured in ISGOTT ( the International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and Terminals) which was produced jointly by charterers and shipowners.  The commercial pressure that oil major vetting created combined with port state meant that the pressure was on for improvement.  
 
Of course all this suggests that there was an entire industry populated with floating disasters.  As always is the case the few spoil it for the many.  As one who ran a vetting service in the 90's, I recall the number of good operators that were still doing the right thing even after 20 years of low freight rates.  I also recall as a fleet manager the effort that went into meeting these requirements.
 
ISM created the mechanism by which all this was delivered and made a major difference to the industry.
 
Review of tanker casualty and pollution statistics shows the dramatic decline in incidents and pollution in the 1990-2005 period.  The improvement is to a great extent unrecognised outside the industry which is unfortunate.
 
The rest is history or is it?  In the mid 2000's most casualty metrics took an 'uptick'.   Oil pollution didn't and that seems to reinforce the value of double hull.
 
So what has happened and where do we go next??
 
 
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