Cargo Ships And The History Of Tankers

March 25, 2019

Did you know that the largest tanker in the world is longer than the Empire State Building? Seawise Giant built in Japan in 1979 is a staggering 458 meters long and has a capacity of more than 650,000 tonnes.

Cargoes ships have undergone a huge evolution over the years. Earlier, most of these vessels had similar designs. However, with traders realizing that different type and amounts of cargoes require different amounts of attention and care, these ships became more and more specialized, says, Premier Ship Models, a scale modelling company reputed for its cargo ship models.

Today, there is a wide variety of cargo ships. Tankers, bulk carriers, and containers are the most popular ones. Tankers carry liquid cargoes such as oil, chemicals and wine, and are a mainstay in international trade. Let us have a brief look at their history:


For millennia, liquid cargoes were moved in amphora, pots, and casks. Finally, when the British started to transport paraffin from Burma, things began to ramp up. They would use earthenware vessels to move the oil to a river bank. Then, they would pour it into boat holds and transport it to Britain.

Carrying the liquid without the weight of barrels was a move that made transportation of oil hassle free. This method was easier, cheaper, and quicker. So, it soon became popular. Later on, the emergence of tanks for storing liquids, gave birth to a need for vessels with specialized designs.

The First Oil Tanker

“Gluckauf”, built in 1886 in Newcastle, is considered the first proper oil tanker of the world. This 2700-ton ship had nearly all the characteristics of a modern tanker. It had divided its cargo space into eight compartments and had separate tanks for storing oil in its hull. The eight tanks also had a trunk above them, allowing the cargo to expand. 

Technological Advancements

The tanker industry went through many important advancements in technology from 1886 onwards. The size and carrying capacity of vessels transporting liquid cargoes began to increase very quickly. Also, they advanced to steam turbines and diesel engines from coal-fired engines.  

In the early 20thCentury, the demand for oil tankers skyrocketed. Earlier, tankers would carry only refined petroleum products since oil refineries would generally be built near oil fields. But, politics and wars changed this. Now, the refineries would be set up in importing nations and crude oil would be shipped. 

After the Second World War

Oil tankers played a major role in World War II. But, they did not stop growing in size after the war. Bulk petrol, which was built during this time, had a 30,000 ton capacity and remained the largest of its kind for a long time.

Tanker sizes grew significantly in the 50’s. In 1955, Sinclair Petrolore overtook Bulk petrol by carrying 56,000 long tons. Then, in 1959, Universe Apollo crossed the 100,000 mark. Not long after that, ships with five times that capacity began to be planned. 

Tankers and other freight ships are a very important component of freight transportation. If you wish to buy scale models of cargo ships like tankers, bulk carriers, and containers, it is best to take services of a reputed scale modeling company.  

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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