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Top 5 Fastest Super Oil Tankers in the World

Savio is a resident of Mumbai, India. Cars, bikes, and everything fast are his passion, and he writes about them on many sites.

Introduction - Supertankers

When we talk about the super oil tankers, it would be a bit confusing to be talking about speed in the same breathe. After all, how could something taller than the Empire State building move fast? But these supertankers do achieve some decent speed touching 30 kmph. Now, that doesn’t sound too much, right? But then ever thought of moving Empire State building at that speed? Do you get a sense of the effort? That’s what we are talking about in this article.

Even at this speed (30 kmph), which looks quite less, it would take the tankers at least 4-6 miles to come to a full stop; apparently, the momentum would be too much to stop too soon. What readers can also expect to see is the longest, largest (gross tonnage and displacement) and the most massive ships ever. In fact, they remain undisputed in size and only the massive container ships come anywhere close.

The smaller tankers won’t be covered in this article. Other types of vessels, including civilian and navy ones, are compared in different write-ups. The links to a few of them are provided below.

You can read about navy ships here

You can read about cruise ships here

But for this list, we will focus on the mammoth piece of art built by man to sail the winds. I remind readers once again that there are no ships larger than these in the world. Have a read and see for yourself.

List of Fastest Super Oil Tankers

Here is the list of fastest super oil tankers. Each one is elaborated below.

Oil TankerTop Speed

Pierre - Guillaumat

16.7 knots [19 mph or 31 kmph]

Batillus

16.7 knots [19 mph or 31 kmph]

Bellamya

16.7 knots [19 mph or 31 kmph]

Prairial

16.7 knots [19 mph or 31 kmph]

Seawise Giant

16.5 knots [18.98 mph or 30.55 kmph]

1. Pierre - Guillaumat

fastest-super-oil-tankers-in-the-world

The first ship on the list is the second largest supertanker in the world. It belonged to the Batillus class supertankers. Governments across the globe wanted such massive ships to meet oil demand; the more they could carry the better. We are also talking about a time when green sources of energy, though known, were yet to be tapped. Besides, government policies worldwide were still to embrace greener solutions completely. So, in the 1970s, these vessels were the in-demand medium of transport for vast quantities of oil. The Pierre – Guillaumat was the largest in terms of Gross Tonnage at the time.

  • Name: Pierre – Guillaumat
  • Type: Supertanker
  • Top Speed: 16.7 knots [19 mph or 31 kmph]
  • Cruising Speed: 16 knots [18.4 mph or 30 kmph]
  • Length: 414.24 meters [1,379.42 feet]
  • Tonnage: 555,051 [Dead Weight] | 274,838 [Gross Tonnage]
  • Displacement: ~600,000 tons
  • Built: 1977
  • Status: Out of service in 1983

Despite the advantages of the supertankers, there were quite some disadvantages too. The Pierre could not pass through the Suez or Panama canal, and that meant more fuel spent to sail through a longer route. The Pierre's draft made it impossible to enter ports, and we are talking about most ports around the world. Notwithstanding these odds, it was common sense to have them because of the reduction in the number of trips as compared to smaller tankers transporting the same quantity of oil. But times did change and so did the practicality of the Pierre. The Pierre saw the last light in 1983 owing to the escalating costs to run her. Though not around anymore, nothing beats the fact that it remains the second largest supertanker in the world.

2. Batillus

fastest-super-oil-tankers-in-the-world

This (Batillus) is the first of the Batillus class supertankers built in 1976. Based on the order of construction, it happens to be the elder sibling of the Pierre – Guillaumat and just a trifle shorter than it. Much like the Pierre, this one too was out of service by 1983.

  • Name: Batillus
  • Type: Supertanker
  • Top Speed: 16.7 knots [19 mph or 31 kmph]
  • Cruising Speed: 16 knots [18.4 mph or 30 kmph]
  • Length: 414.22 meters [1,379.35 feet]
  • Tonnage: 553,662 [Dead Weight] | 275,268 [Gross Tonnage]
  • Displacement: ~663,000 tons
  • Built: 1976
  • Status: Out of service in 1983

Belonging to the same class, most of the details were common between the Batillus class ships. However, the other three of the four ships of the Batillus class were smaller than the Pierre – Guillaumat by mere 0.02 meters. The oil shock of the 70s and the refusal of developed countries importing oil, saw these tankers being retired in just about 6-7 years of service. Interestingly, some stringent penalties on canceling the orders for these ships were the main reason for constructing them in the first place.

3. Bellamya

fastest-super-oil-tankers-in-the-world

Bellamya was the second supertanker built just after the Batillus. Shell Oil's order initiated the construction of the Batillus and the Bellamya. Because of the construction years being so close for all the ships of the Batillus class, readers may wonder why was the construction not stopped at an early stage. Well, we mentioned the reason earlier. Shell would have had to bear a high penalty if the development was cancelled. It, in fact, made sense to have the ships built and then scrap it, rather than stopping its construction.

  • Name: Bellamya
  • Type: Supertanker
  • Top Speed: 16.7 knots [19 mph or 31 kmph]
  • Cruising Speed: 16 knots [18.4 mph or 30 kmph]
  • Length: 414.22 meters [1,379.35 feet]
  • Tonnage: 553,662 [Dead Weight] | 274,276 [Gross Tonnage]
  • Displacement: ~633,000 tons
  • Built: 1976
  • Status: Out of service in 1984

Though it is difficult to predict the logic for the construction of such ships, it can be surmised that the constructors, as well as the buyers, would have expected the ports to upgrade and accommodate such ships. Sadly, that never happened, though it happened elsewhere. The Airbus A380 is a good example, whose introduction saw few airports upgrading to accommodate the craft. But then air travel as a mode of transport was becoming affordable, oil supply, on the other hand, had its crests and troughs. It is one such trough which caught all these supertankers and ensured that they never sailed again.

4. Prairial

fastest-super-oil-tankers-in-the-world

Prairial was the last of the Batillus class tankers and was built just about the time of the Pierre-Guillaumat. Interestingly, this is the only ship in the group to have survived beyond eight years of operation. What is the significance of eight years? The significance is that the rest of Prairial's sisters were out of service by that period, and few were scrapped within ten years of being built. So in that sense, Prairial is one lucky ship and had changed multiple hands during her lifetime.

  • Name: Prairial
  • Type: Supertanker
  • Top Speed: 16.7 knots [19 mph or 31 kmph]
  • Cruising Speed: 16 knots [18.4 mph or 30 kmph]
  • Length: 414.22 meters [1,379.35 feet]
  • Tonnage: 553,046 [Dead Weight] | 274,826 [Gross Tonnage]
  • Displacement: ~630,000 tons
  • Built: 1979
  • Status: Out of service in 2003

Among the supertankers, the Prairial was the third largest behind the Seawise Giant and Pierre Guillaumat. During her operational years, she was named Sea Giant (not Seawise Giant), Hellas Fos and Sea Brilliance.

5. Seawise Giant

fastest-super-oil-tankers-in-the-world

We come to the last of the supertankers and this happens to be the mother of them all. This is the largest ship in the world among the supertankers. There is simply no other tanker ship built longer than this one. There is only one other type of ship which is larger than her and that is the Pioneering Spirit, the world’s largest construction vessel. Again, the Pioneering Spirit being bigger than Seawise Giant can be argued, but that notwithstanding, we will take that fact on face value.

  • Name: Seawise Giant
  • Type: Supertanker
  • Top Speed: 16.5 knots [18.98 mph or 30.55 kmph]
  • Cruising Speed: 16 knots [18.4 mph or 30 kmph]
  • Length: 458.45 meters [1,526.64 feet]
  • Tonnage: 564,763 [Dead Weight] | 260,941 [Gross Tonnage]
  • Displacement: ~646,642 tons
  • Built: 1979
  • Status: Out of service in 2009. Scrapped in 2010
fastest-super-oil-tankers-in-the-world

The size comparison picture above shows that the Seawise Giant was one of the longest ships around and dwarfed the longest navy ship, the USS Enterprise. By the way, those wondering which ship is the Knock – Nevis, it is the Seawise Giant under a different call-name. Seawise Giant's other names were Happy Giant, Jahre Viking, Oppama, and finally Mont before she was scrapped.

The Seawise Giant was the largest ship in terms of length and dead weight. It had a deadweight of 564,763 tons and happened to be the largest for any supertanker. This was one ship which sank and was brought back to life. During the Iran-Iraq war, the Iraqi Air Force torpedoed the Seawise Giant, which remained in its shallow grave for some time. Post the war, she was brought out, repaired and re-christened as Happy Giant. Since then, the ship had changed multiple hands.

Though, the largest in terms of dead-weight, it was only the fifth largest in terms of Gross Tonnage. The other four ships ahead of her were the four Batillus class sisters. Due to its size, it took the Seawise Giant an immense 5 miles to come to a halt from its top speed and nearly 2-3 km to turn. While the Batillus sisters could not pass through the Suez and Panama canal, the Seawise Giant could not pass through the English, Suez or Panama Canal. Such was her size!

All of the supertankers discussed so far have been scrapped, and it is unlikely that any more will be constructed to that dimensions. Only two class of ships can surpass the Seawise Giant in the future, and they are the Cruise Ships and the Construction Vessels. That said, nothing exceeds the exciting feel of having a supertanker pass you while on the high seas; a feeling that we may not experience anymore.

You can read about the fastest and largest cruise ships here.

Special Mention: Pioneering Spirit

fastest-super-oil-tankers-in-the-world

Well, when talking about the Seawise Giant, we mentioned that the Pioneering Spirit was the only larger vessel. Technically, the Pioneering Spirit is the largest sailing ship of any kind, and bigger than the Seawise Giant. To the Seawise’s credit, it was the largest ship till the time it was still a ship. The Pioneering Spirit entered service only after the Seawise’s scrapping. Since we talk speed here, it is astonishing to know that this large vessel can still do fourteen knots.

  • Name: Pioneering Spirit
  • Type: Construction Vehicle
  • Top Speed: 14 knots [16.1 mph or 26 kmph]
  • Cruising Speed: 14 knots [16.1 mph or 26 kmph]
  • Length: 477 meters [1,588.4] [Maximum] | 383 meters [1272.06] [Only hull]
  • Tonnage: 403,342 [Gross Tonnage]
  • Displacement: 365,000 tons [In motion] | 1,000,0000 [at maximum lift and draft]
  • Built: 2013
  • Status: In Service

If you look at those stats closely, we are talking about the only ship to have a displacement of million tons. But then again, it was constructed precisely for that purpose - to lift complete oil rigs and place on the vessel. So, the displacement at lift is understandable. The gross tonnage too is nearly twice that of the supertankers. If these dimensions were not enough, there is an even larger construction vehicle, Amazing Grace expected to come into service by 2022. Watch this space for details on Amazing Grace soon.

Back to Port

This list is unique. The uniqueness stems from the fact that none of the mentioned ships exist anymore. However, it is a good reminder of the times gone by and the speeds that such mammoth structures could achieve. I hope it was interesting to know about these ships as much as about the Pioneering Spirit. Although speed-wise they hardly set the chart on fire, readers would know by now that all these ships were few of the massive structures propelled by motors. So seeing them do such speeds is not that bad. What would have been interesting is to see them race against each other; no doubt, that race would have appeared to be in slow motion, but what a wake that would have created!

Disclaimer: The videos added in the article belong to the users who have posted them on youtube. The Author does not own them nor validates that they belong to the ones who posted them on youtube. The videos are included to give some additional information about the subject being discussed.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Savio Koman