Oil tanker explosion


Societies all over the world are heavily dependent on oil for a wide variety of uses. Not every country has the reserves or the infrastructure to produce that oil and so they buy it from the countries that do produce oil. This oil, once procured, must be transported to the buyer countries across the world. For decades the world has relied on oil tanker ships to bring this crude oil to all corners of the world across perilous seas that are fraught with many dangers that are both man made and unforeseen. In all this, some oil tankers have made their journeys without incident, but some have not been so lucky. Even in these modern times we still contend with oil tanker explosions. Oil tanker fires, spills and crashes admittedly have reduced in frequency but do still happen, at times with tragic consequences.

Before we delve any deeper into the subject of oil tanker disasters it is essential to know what an oil tanker is. The oil tankers under discussion are ocean vessels that transport petroleum oil from one place to the other. Generally it is these tankers that are tasked with the responsibility of moving oil from the extraction plants to the refineries and then to the end users. Despite their importance, the safety of oil tankers often took second place to maximising profits. This kind of negligence has caused oil tanker accidents throughout history. Oil tanker accidents are more often than not the result of fire, explosions, structural damage to ships, grounding of ships, incorrect loading and unloading procedures as well as collisions. This situation has been vastly improved over the years. The result has been the reduction in the number of oil tanker spills, fires and explosions the world over because of the implementation of regulations governing international organisations and shipping companies size calculator.

Oil tanker spills

Since 1970 there have been almost 1400 spills by oil tankers that range from 7 tonnes to 700 tonnes. These are classified as medium scale oil tanker spills. Larger vessels that are bigger than 700 tonnes have cumulatively reached 455 spills. It is relatively rare to find smaller vessels in the oil tanker spill statistics records because they are hardly reported. More detailed statistics are available online. These records show all of the spills that have occurred since 1970, except the ones that have come about because of acts of war. Usually oil tanker spills happen in conjunction with fires, explosions and collisions.

Oil tanker explosions

An oil tanker explosion is often a tragedy that results from different causes and brings with it many fatalities. There have been many cases of explosions that have not only killed many people but have resulted in ecological damage that takes many years to be resolved. There are a lot of factors that can cause oil tankers to explode.

  1. Unknown causes

A 998 tonne oil tanker owned by a Japanese firm exploded in 2014. Of the 8 people that were aboard the vessel, 4 were severely burnt and one went missing. The middle of the ship was completely gutted. Thorough investigations were conducted but a cause for the explosion was never found. Fortunately the ship has offloaded its oil cargo. This is one of the conclusions that can be reached when a tanker explodes, it may be difficult to tell what the problem was.

  1. Faulty ship structure

When ships are not properly maintained they can develop faults in their structure that may have disastrous consequences. In 1979, the oil tanker Betelgeuse failed to make its routine stops to off load some of the fuel that it was carrying due to circumstances that were beyond anyone’s control. The ship was also behind on its maintenance schedule and had structural issues like cracks, corrosion and oil leaks. The accident that resulted from these faults killed 50 people. The fire from the several explosions that rocked the ship was so intense that fire fighters and rescuers could not get near the ship.

  1. Incorrect loading and unloading practices

Only experienced personnel should load and unload oil tankers. This is because one wrong move can destabilise the ship and cause explosions. If the buoyancy of the hull becomes uneven, it can cause the vessel to rupture its tankers. Vapour from these ruptured tankers can escape into the vessel and cause a disaster.

  1. Acts of God

Not all oil tanker explosions are able to be prevented because it is not always man made issues that result in this destruction. Forces of nature like stormy weather, gale force winds and lightning strikes also cause oil tankers to explode. A tanker met with such a fate in the Baytown area. Thankfully there was no oil in it at the time.

Oil tanker crashes and groundings

The sheer size of oil tankers as well as the volatile nature of what they carry makes crashes a serious matter. There is also so much publicity every time there is an oil tanker accident. Often bad weather is what causes ships to collide with different objects and other ships. In 1967 a tanker called the Torrey Canyon crashed into Pollard’s Rock causing it to spill 31 gallons of oil. An oil tanker called the Amoco Cadiz ran aground in 1978 as a result of bad weather. Terrible storms split the ship into two, causing it to lose all of its cargo in the Atlantic. In 1993 the Braer was forced aground by hurricane force winds, causing 85 000 tonnes of crude oil to be spilled. There are many oil tanker accident pictures available for viewing on the internet.

It is an ongoing effort by the international family to ensure that there are fewer accidents involving oil tankers. This initiative will ascertain that more of the precious commodity that these tankers carry gets to the end user. Different species that depend on the stability of the ecosystems in the seas will also be able to comfortably survive. More human lives are sure to be preserved when accidents that result in fires and explosions are further reduced.