ABS warns of risks from aging fleet
- Aging Oil Tanker Fleet Forecast Tonnage [9,891 bytes]
- Oil Tanker Fleet- 1.1% avg. annual growth [12,939 bytes]
- Oil Tankers- total deliveries [25,075 bytes]
The warning stems from a detailed analysis of the world tanker fleet by the ABS Business Planning and Analysis department. "As the President of a major classification society, my attention is focused on one very specific and inescapable conclusion from that analysis," Somerville told the gathering. "Despite the recent flurry of new orders, the world fleet of large tankers is statistically older than it has ever been, and it will continue to age over the next three to four years."
2% growth rateSomerville cited statistics in support of this view which show that the average annual growth in the world tanker fleet over the last six years has been a remarkably modest 2%, considerably less than for bulk carriers or container ships. For the very large crude carrier fleet (VLCC) sector, this average annual growth has been a miniscule 0.4%. During that same period, 70% of all new tankers delivered, and 77 % of all new VLCCs have been replacement tonnage for vessels which have been scrapped or otherwise withdrawn from the market.
The result is that the world tanker fleet continues to age at an accelerating rate. In 1993, only 12% of that fleet was more than 20 years old. The most recent figures available show this has now grown to more than 35 %, with nearly 45 % of all VLCCs now 20 years of age or older.
Somerville's concern stems from a review of the current order books at all the major shipyards worldwide, particularly those capable of building large tankers. "The mean estimated backlog at the primary tanker newbuilding yards is 36 months," he said. "That means we know how much new tanker tonnage will be delivered during that period, and we know that it will not be sufficient to reverse the aging of the fleet."
Past retirement"It is inevitable," Somerville predicted, "that a significant number of tankers which, in the past, were retired immediately prior to their fifth special survey, will now go through that process and will continue to trade, possibly until they are 30 years old."
If there is any encouragement to be found in this otherwise bleak voyage into uncharted waters, it comes from the experience, which ABS has been gathering from its extensive SafeHull Condition Assessment Program. This allows an older tanker's fitness for purpose to be accurately analyzed using the advanced, dynamic-based techniques contained in ABS' unmatched SafeHull design evaluation program.
To date, ABS, through its ABS Marine Services affiliate, has conducted a sophisticated SafeHull condition assessment on more than 70 VLCCs, a figure which represents almost one third of the entire world fleet of these vessels aged 15 or older. Those assessments have found 27% of the world fleet of older VLCCs to be in what ABS considers to be either good or very good condition.
"We have found that the average reduction due to corrosion in hull girder section modulus at the deck and at the bottom is between 3-6%, "Somerville told the industry gathering. But he also warned the delegates that these results should not be surprising.
"We believe that most of the vessels we inspected could have been expected to receive acceptable grades as their presentation to ABS for the assessment represent a strong belief on the part of their owners that these vessels were maintained in a condition which is somewhat better than average."
Editor's Note: As the upstream industry moves into deeper and more distant oil provinces, the need for floating production and lightering tankers, frequently obtained from the global tanker fleet, will grow. The following, which is reprinted with the permission of ABS, reviews the age status of the tanker fleet.
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