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BP Shipping: A voyage through time
BP Shipping is the oldest continually operating heritage company in the BP Group, starting life as the British Tanker Company in 1915 and formed to carry products for the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
 

Along the way, its people have moved much of BP’s oil from field to market around the globe, demonstrated remarkable courage in war and peace, and made outstanding contributions to maritime safety and environmental performance.

BP Shipping 1915

The early days

The shipping business was born out of a severe financial crisis that gripped the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) – later to become BP – in 1913/14. After making one of the world’s most significant oil discoveries at Masjid-i-Suleiman in Persia (now Iran), the challenge for the fledging company was to develop and market the huge quantities of crude oil. But, crucially, it lacked the means to move the oil to potential customers.

 

A timely solution emerged though as the British Government decided to fuel its warships with oil as an alternative to coal. The company chairman, Charles Greenway, invited the British Government to purchase a shareholding. Both sides set to gain from the move: the company with a £2 million injection of cash and the Government with a secure supply of oil, just as a world war broke out.

The war years

BP Shipping 1939

Company seafarers saw service in both the Atlantic and the Arctic convoys, supplying oil to Russia, as well as to the North Africa campaign and the D-Day landings. Despite a convoy system, oil tankers were, in the words of Britain’s future queen, Princess Elizabeth: “the ‘bull’s eye’ of every enemy attack”.

 

Later, in 1947, she remarked on this wartime contribution: "No greater heroism has ever been shown than by the men who served in our tankers. Their achievements were of vital importance but seldom spectacular, and it was not often that they received the thanks they deserved.”

 

 

No greater heroism has ever been shown than by the men who served in our tankers. Their achievements were of vital importance but seldom spectacular, and it was not often that they received the thanks they deserved.
Elizabeth II, Her Majesty The Queen

Restoring the fleet

BP Shipping 1950

Birth of a supertanker

British Adventure heralded a new era for the oil tanker. At 30,000 dwt, she was the largest tanker in the world

 

BP Shipping 1956

The long way round

Suez crisis diverts tankers around the Cape of Good Hope. The Suez canal is closed for eight years

BP Shipping 1965

Golden age

By its 50th birthday, the BP Tanker Company fleet amounted to 120 ships, totalling 3 million dwt

Oil crisis sparks boom and bust

BP Shipping fleet in numbers 1970

The 1970s brought an energy crisis: with the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members taking control of their national resources, price rises and production cuts in reaction to Middle Eastern conflicts.


Consumers around the world queued at petrol pumps while industry also ground to a halt due to fuel shortages. There were far more ships than there was oil to carry – and the world’s fleet needed to be reduced, quickly.

Double protection

Double hull image 1989

After the 1989 grounding of Exxon Valdez off Alaska, all tankers trading oil with the US had to be double-hulled.

 

This design involves surrounding the cargo tanks with a second internal plate at a sufficient distance from the external plate. BP’s first double hull was the 210,000 dwt British Valour.

Today - BP Shipping

Infographic illistrating the BP Shipping business in numbers

Today at BP Shipping

Credit: BP Magazine

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