Seawise Giant was the largest ship built in the 20th Century with a volume of 260,851 Gross Registered Tons. As oil tankers have to be built with double hulls since the Exxon Valdez spillage in Alaskan waters March 27th 1989, it is unlikely any new tankers will exceed this size. As of 2020, this was still the largest ship ever built, although a moving platform for the oil and gas industry has been constructed larger.
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Construction of this Oil Tanker began in 1979 for a Greek shipping magnate. As a result of the oil embargo in the 1970s, the original owner was declared bankrupt before his ship could be completed. This led to the Hong Kong shipping magnate Mr. C. Y. Tung buying the incomplete ship under an agreement the builders would increase its length so the Dead Weight Tonnage (full load) could be increased from 480,000 to 564,763 tons.
Seawise Giant was first operated in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. She was later transferred to the Persian Gulf to be used for exporting oil from Iran. While Seawise Giant was traveling through the Hormus Straits in 1986, during the Iran / Iraq war, she was attacked by Iraqi jets and hit with Exocet missiles. The extensive damage caused by these attacks led to her sinking in shallow waters at Kharg Island.
A few months after the end of the Iran-Iraq War, August 1988, Norman International bought Seawise Giant, had her refloated, repaired by the Keppel Shipyard in Singapore, and renamed her Happy Giant. The prestige of owning the world’s largest ship seems to have been the main reason this company made the purchase.
By 1999 she had been sold to the Norwegian company Jahare Wallem to be operated under the name Jahre Viking. This ship is so large, four football fields could be laid end to end on her deck, braking distance is about three and a half miles, and fully loaded she sits 80 feet in the water.
The Oppama shipyard was established in the early 1970s as a large modern yard with a building dock 1,800 feet long, 260 feet wide and 41 feet deep for the construction of ultra large tankers and bulkers. On June 1st 1997, the Oppama yards name was changed to Yokosuka. Although they are unlikely to build any more ships as large as Seawise Giant, they still build large tankers and bulkers.
C. Y. Tung was born in Shanghai/China in 1912. His interest in shipping began when he found work as a shipping clerk in 1930. Tung fled with his family to Hong Kong after the communists were victorious in the Chinese Civil War 1945-1949. By 1970, he had become one of the worlds leading independent ship owners operating a fleet of more than 150 ships. As well as owning the world’s largest ship Seawise Giant, he also bought the world’s largest Trans Atlantic liner Queen Elizabeth in 1970. C. Y. Tung died April 15th 1982 aged 71.
In March 2004, Jahre Viking was sent by its new owner, First Olsen Tankers, to the Dubai drydocks to be refitted as a floating storage and offloading unit. Under the name Knock Nevis, she began operating at the Al Shaheen oilfield in waters of Qatar.
In December 2009, this vessel was sold to Indian breakers and renamed Mont for her final journey. After clearing Indian customs, she was intentionally beached in India for ship breaking. She was photographed beached for scrapping at Alang, India on 4 January 2010. Scrapping Images & Information.
The other six tankers to break the 500,000 dwt mark were:
Battilus 553,662 dwt 1976 - 1985
Bellamya 553,662 dwt 1976 - 1986
Pierre Guillaumat 555,051 dwt 1977 - 1983 largest ship ever constructed as designed
Esso Atlantic 516,000 dwt 1977 - 2002
Esso Pacific 516 dwt 1977 - 2002
Prairial 554,974 dwt 1979 - 2003
The first four double hull tankers over 400,000 tons were built for the Hellespont Shipping Corporation of Greece in 2000 with all being registered under the Marshall Islands. The first of these sisters at 442,000 dwt, 234,006 gross tons, the MV Hellespont Alhambra, was registered with the Marshall Islands on March 7th 2002, with the Hellespont Metropolis following on June 3rd. The last two sister ships in the series, the Hellespont Fairfax and Hellespont Tara joined the Marshall Islands register later that year.
Passenger ships that could eventually exceed the tonnage of Seawise Giant are floating cities or cruise ships. Floating cities could soon become a reality, as some have already been designed.
Oasis of the Seas Class cruise ships began entering service in 2009 at around 227,000 Gross Registered Tons, Largest Cruise Ships in 2020.
The Largest Container Ships began entering service in 2019 at 232,618 gross tons.
The largest Aircraft Carriers are the USS Gerald Ford class at about 100,000 gross tons.
The Oil and Gas vessel named Pioneering Spirit entered service in 2014 at 403,342 gross tons, although many people would class this more as a vessel / moving platform, than a ship.
Photos and information of many more tankers can be found at www.aukevisser.nl/supertankers.