ECONOMY

Super-tanker cuts costs, time

LONDON (Reuters) – A super-tanker longer and heavier than New York’s Empire State Building has sailed through the Suez Canal half empty in an innovative journey that saved major costs for its charterer, its Greek owner said yesterday. «This is very rarely done – it’s not been done in years,» Spyros Vlassopoulos, spokesman for the Hellespont Corporation, told Reuters. The massive 442,000-deadweight-ton Hellespont Alhambra was only allowed to pass through the canal after discharging half its load of crude oil at the port of Ain Shukna, in Egypt. Because of their immense size and draft, such tankers are not permitted to pass through Suez fully loaded. Half-loaded, its draft still reaches some 14 meters under the water line – the maximum allowed. The Ultra Large Crude Carrier (ULCC) was en route from the Gulf to Rotterdam carrying some 410,000 tons of crude oil. From Ain Shukna, the oil was transported by the Suez-Mediterranean pipeline to Sid i Kerir where it was reloaded. Vlassopoulos said that with freight rates currently hovering around two-year highs, such voyages offer considerable economies of scale for oil companies, and slash back journey times from an average of 40 days to just two weeks. «It saves oil companies having to charter four or five Aframax, 80,000-ton tankers, and saves time by avoiding having to navigate round the Cape of Good Hope,» he said. ULCCs and Very Large Crude Carriers, 250,000-ton tankers, are increasingly being used to carry petroleum products like fuel oil which are traditionally transported on much smaller vessels.