130 years of tanker shipping on the Black Sea

2015 was the 130th anniversary of the first tanker transportation of oil and petroleum products on the Black Sea.

The industrial extraction of oil in Baku, Azerbaijan, began in the middle of the 19th century. It was transported in barrels, then in bulk along the Caspian Sea to Astrakhan, then along the River Volga. By the end of the century Russia was producing more oil than anywhere else on earth. In 1883 a railway was built between Baku and Batumi in Georgia, which gave Azerbaijani oil a new gateway to the international market – the Black Sea.

The Russian tanker Svet (deadweight: 1,700 tonnes) was built to export oil and kerosene ordered by Nobel Brothers Petroleum Company. In 1885 she became the first tanker to enter the Black Sea. This passage gave birth to the maritime traditions that the seafarers of the Russian commercial fleet still live by today.
Svet was 89.5 metres long and 11.6 metres wide, with eight cargo tanks. Her load draft was 4.5 metres. Her rigging spanned 240 m2. The tanker’s top speed with sails set was 7.5 knots, and 10 at full pace. Its crew was a team of 50. At the SCF Training Centre in Novorossiysk there is now a model of Svet, built by the leading ship model maker Valentin Shikin. Mr Shikin had to make a huge amount of academic enquiries in order to establish her exact parameters and appearance.

Over the next 130 years, tankers became 100 times larger, and crews halved in size. Technologies were developed, experience was gained, more routes were undertaken, but tankers on the shores of the Black Sea remained a symbol of a country’s prosperity and success. SCF Group’s position in the Black Sea region has always been strong, but the company continues to make it stronger, investing in new modern vessels. This is one of the fundamental principles of Sovcomflot’s development strategy.

Tanker Svet, 1885.