Crude oil tankers

Crude Oil Tankers

What is a Crude Oil Tanker?

A crude oil tanker is a specialized vessel designed to transport large quantities of unrefined crude oil from production sites to refineries, or distribution centers around the world. Oil tankers are typically categorized as either dirty tankers (which move crude oil or “dirty” products, such as residual fuel oil) or “clean” product tankers (which move clean products. such as gasoline and diesel). 

These ships have large cargo holds, or tanks specifically designed to carry crude oil safely across oceans. They play a crucial role in the global oil trade, facilitating the movement of crude oil from oil-producing regions to areas of demand for processing and consumption.

What are the Key International Regulations for Crude Oil Tankers?

Some key international regulations and standards for crude oil tankers include:

  • The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is a comprehensive international treaty that addresses various forms of marine pollution, including oil pollution from crude oil tankers. Annex I of MARPOL sets out regulations for the prevention of oil pollution, including requirements for oil tankers regarding design, equipment, operational procedures, and discharge limitations.
  • The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) establishes minimum safety standards for the construction, equipment, and operation of ships, including crude oil tankers. SOLAS contains specific requirements related to tankers’ structural integrity, stability, fire protection, navigation, and safety equipment.
  • International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) certificate: Crude oil tankers are required to obtain an IOPP Certificate under MARPOL Annex I, which certifies compliance with the treaty’s requirements for preventing oil pollution. 
  • The International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code is a set of mandatory security measures adopted by the IMO to enhance the security of ships and port facilities against terrorist threats and acts of piracy. Crude oil tankers are subject to security requirements under the ISPS Code to protect against security threats during their operations.
  • Ballast Water Management Convention: this addresses the management and control of ships’ ballast water to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens. 
  • International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) code provides guidelines for the safe transport of dangerous goods by sea, including certain types of crude oil. Tankers carrying hazardous cargo must comply with the IMDG Code’s requirements for packaging, labeling, stowage, and handling of dangerous goods.
11th Sanctions Package

Which Regulatory Bodies Oversee Crude Oil Tankers?

Several regulatory bodies oversee crude oil tankers and ensure compliance with international regulations and standards. Some of the key regulatory bodies include:

  • International Maritime Organization (IMO): this United Nations agency has developed a comprehensive framework of maritime regulations, including safety, security, and environmental standards that apply to crude oil tankers and other vessels.
  • Flag state administrations: Each crude oil tanker is registered under the flag of a specific country, known as its flag state. Flag state administrations are responsible for ensuring that vessels flying their flag comply with international regulations and standards, as well as their own national laws and requirements.
  • Classification societies: these independent organizations, which include Lloyd’s Register, American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), and Bureau Veritas, are responsible for certifying the design, construction, and maintenance of ships, including crude oil tankers.
  • Port state control authorities: conduct inspections of foreign-flagged vessels visiting their ports to ensure compliance with international regulations and standards. They have the authority to detain vessels that fail to meet safety, security, or environmental requirements.
  • Oil spill response organizations: In many countries, they are responsible for preparing and implementing contingency plans to respond to oil spills from crude oil tankers and other vessels. They work closely with regulatory authorities, shipping companies, and other stakeholders to prevent and mitigate environmental damage in the event of an oil spill.

These regulatory bodies play crucial roles in ensuring the safe operation, environmental protection, and compliance of crude oil tankers with applicable regulations and standards on a global scale.

Russian Sanctions and their Impact on Crude Oil Tankers

In response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, the G7 capped the price of Russian oil. In February 2023, those sanctions were expanded and a ban was placed on Russian refined oil products. All G7 countries, the rest of the European Union, and Australia are among the countries that placed the sanctions. 

We have seen the development of a “gray fleet” in response, which is designed to obscure vessel origins and ownership. Russia has continued to produce 2.6 million barrels of crude oil per day, and those who use ships containing Russian oil do so at risk of seizure from global authorities. There are approximately 2,000 gray fleet and dark fleet ships that engage in dark activities on the water today, many involved in moving wet cargo, such as oil.