The technology of oil transportation has evolved over the last century alongside the oil industry. It is generally divided into two categories:
• Land transportation (pipelines, trucks, rail)
• Water transportation (oil tankers and barges)

There are around 3,000 crude and product tankers in the world’s fleet (larger than 35,000 dwt). They are all built to a specific structural and design specification to fit world ports and terminals, narrow canals and passages, trading patterns and water depths, among other tailored dimensions. These are broken into three major categories:

DIRTY – is generally referred to larger oil tankers designed to carry crude oil and dirty petroleum products (the cargo actually looks dirty – black and brownish in color and often thick);

CLEAN – is generally referred to clean petroleum product tankers which are medium in size and designated to carry refined oil products such as gasoline, diesel, naphtha, among others (clean products are lighter in color and density from dirty cargoes);

SPECIALTY – is generally referred to smaller vessels built for carrying specialty cargoes such as benzene, styrene, sulfuric acid, veg and palm oils, among others (chemical cargoes vary in density, some can be as thick as candle wax and some are very light).


Dry bulk carries make up around 20% of the world’s merchant fleet and range in size from single-hold mini-bulk carriers to large ore carriers capable of carrying over 300,000 tons. A number of specialized designs exist: some can unload their own cargo, some depend on port facilities for unloading, and some even package the cargo as it is loaded. While oil tankers depend on shore facilities to load and discharge cargoes, dry bulk vessels are a lot more flexible in that respect. They can use their own gear to reach the most remote navigable waters in the world and load and discharge cargoes using their own equipment.

Typical dry bulk cargoes are: Sugar, salt, grains, mining and steel products.



Ocean going vessels are employed on different trading routes around the world. On every route they earn different freight rates which are standardized globally in usd/ton units. The cost of freight is driven by interaction of supply and demand for a particular vessel in a specific region (or time frame) in the world. For example: If there are three cargo stems that need to be transported and only one vessel in position to do so – the market will strengthen. Reciprocally, if there is one cargo stem to be transported and three vessels available to lift the stem – the market will weaken. The market can swing on a daily basis, sometimes minute-by-minute, or stay stagnant for days without a significant change. Interestingly, no one knows exactly when it will move and there is no research organization in the world that can accurately forecast the market on a consistent basis.

In addition to the freight market, there are a few other segments within the shipping industry worth noting. For example:

Newbuilding market – vessels are constructed in industrial shipbuilding yards across the globe. The newbuilding market dictates the prices of new vessels when ordered for construction.

Secondhand market – after a vessel is built and joins the world fleet, the sale and purchase market dictates its price throughout the lifetime.

Demolition market – at the end of their trading life, vessels are sold for demolition. The scrap market dictates the value of vessels sold for their final destination.

The unique side of our industry is the international aspect of it. English is the official transacting language, US dollar is the official transacting currency and market participants come from all over the world. To put it into perspective: it is common for a vessel to be owned by a company based in Greece, registered in Liberia, transporting cargoes from Atlantic to Pacific for a Swiss based shipper on a charter facilitated by a New York based broker. That same vessel can be insured by a UK insurer, commercially managed from Denmark, technically managed by a Singapore based company and staffed by a crewing company in India. That same vessel is generally built by Korean engineers and naval architects, financed by a German bank and will be scrapped by an Indian recycling yard. Furthermore, there is a good chance it changed hands a few times over its lifetime and every owning company used a different set of companies – from different parts of the world – to finance, manage and insure it.



• Ocean going freighters are traded over the phone. It is not unusual to commit millions of dollars in freight over one phone call.

• ‘Fixed’ means two parties are committed to a contract.

• The largest tanker ever built was mt Knock Nevis – 564,763 dwt and a length of 458.45 meters. It was longer than the Empire State building.

• The largest bulk carries can transport over 400,000 metric tons of cargo.

• Measurement in barrels originated in Pennsylvanian oil fields, where oil products were stored and transported in wooden barrels.

• The first ship built to carry oil (in barrels) was Elisabeth Watts built in 1861 in the US.

• The first ship to carry oil in bulk was Zoroaster built in 1878 in Sweden.

• Most dry bulk vessel cranes can lift 25-30 metric tons but the highest capacity ones can lift over 3,000 metric tons.

• On average 70% of steel from a scraped vessel is comprised of re-rollable scrap which is converted into rods and bars and used in construction applications.


In order to envision the size of international trade on global basis please click on the following link: