Oil tankers

Oil is often found in remote places or under the sea. It has to be transported to an oil refinery.

This tanker is filling up with a cargo of crude oil. It will take this crude oil to a refinery on the UK coast. The loading rig is connected to an oil platform by an undersea pipe.

Oil tankers are used to carry:

  • crude oil from platforms in the North Sea and from the Middle East.
  • petroleum products from the refinery to other factories or to other countries for export.

Oil tankers are huge ships. They are often more than 450 metres long, 60 metres wide and 25 metres deep.

The world’s largest oil tanker is called the Jahre Viking. It weighs 564,763 tonnes.

Tankers are used to carry crude oil from the North Sea round to refineries such as Fawley on the South Coast and Coryton on the Thames estuary. They also bring crude oil to Britain from the Middle East.

The tanker on the right can carry over a quarter of a million tonnes of crude oil.

The tanker is so long that the crew use bicycles to travel from one end to the other.


Smaller tankers are used to carry petroleum products from the refinery to other factories or overseas to sell. The picture below shows four ships moored to the seaward berths at Fawley.

Tankers at Fawley
Tankers loading and unloading at Fawley.
From the left they are:
  • unloading 112,000 tonnes of crude oil from the North Sea. This will be refined here at Fawley.
  • unloading 44,000 tonnes of aviation fuel. This will be taken by pipeline to the Midlands and Birmingham airport.
  • loading 1,600 tonnes of pressurised propane gas. This will be exported to Ambes in France.
  • loading 600 tonnes of lubricating oil to take to Antwerp where it will be put into containers and sold in Europe.