The Esso Northumbria was a very large crude carrier (VLCC) built by the Swan Hunter shipyard in Wallsend, England, for Esso Petroleum in 1971. The ship was one of the largest of its time, with a length of 347 meters (1,138 feet) and a capacity of 331,000 deadweight tons.
The Esso Northumbria was designed to transport crude oil from the Middle East to refineries in Europe and North America, and it was one of the key components of Esso’s global oil transport network. The ship was equipped with the latest technology, including automated cargo-handling systems, radar, and satellite navigation.
On July 21, 1973, the Esso Northumbria was involved in a collision with the Norwegian tanker MV Horda in the English Channel, resulting in a major oil spill. The incident occurred in heavy fog, and both ships were badly damaged. The Esso Northumbria suffered extensive damage to its bow and was towed to Antwerp, Belgium, for repairs.
The oil spill from the collision was one of the largest in history at the time, and it caused significant environmental damage to the coastlines of the UK and France. The incident led to changes in international regulations regarding the transport of hazardous materials, including the requirement for double-hulled tankers.
After repairs, the Esso Northumbria returned to service and continued to transport crude oil around the world. However, the ship was eventually sold for scrap in 1986, after more than 15 years of service.
Overall, the Esso Northumbria was a significant ship in the history of oil transport, both for its size and technological advancements, as well as for its involvement in the major oil spill in the English Channel. The incident led to significant changes in international regulations and the development of new technologies to improve the safety and environmental impact of oil transport.
- Facts about Esso Northumbria
- 1. Lanched by the Famous Princess Anne
- 2. Esso Northumbria was the Largest Ship ever built in Britain at that time
- 3. Esso Northumbria was the part of eight VLCC built by the Swan Hunter Shipyard
- 4. Ship was name after a Place named Northumbria
- 5. Esso Northumbria was powered by a single steam turbine engine
- 6. Esso Northumbria was full of problems when launched
- 7. Ship had a crew of around 40 people, including officers, engineers, and seamen.
- 8. Esso Northumbria was involved in various Groundings, Collision and Oil Spills
- 9. Esso Northumbria was eventually sold for scrap in 1986 – Know Why?
- 10. Esso Northumbria – was a source of Pride for Britain
Facts about Esso Northumbria
1. Lanched by the Famous Princess Anne
It was on a rainy Tyneside day 50 years ago that the giant oil tanker Esso Northumbria was launched at Swan Hunter’s Wallsend shipyard by Princess Anne.
At 253,000 tons, it was the biggest ship in the world at the time, and it was the first in a succession of colossal supertankers to be built at the famous yard.
Princess Anne ushered in the era of the “mammoth tanker” with her first ship launch. The 253,000-ton Esso Northumbria left Swan Hunters shipyard in Wallsend on Friday May 2nd 1969.
2. Esso Northumbria was the Largest Ship ever built in Britain at that time
This was the largest ship ever built in Britain at the time, so large that it took up two berths and had to be launched side-on into the Tyne, the river only 1230 feet wide and the ship at 1143 feet long.
The Glasgow Herald reported that, as the ship gathered speed, 1750 tons of drag chains and seven anchors were needed “to keep her from forming an instant bridge to the other bank of the river”. “Esso Northumbria is not much short of a quarter of a mile long and can carry the equivalent of 8,500,000,000 pints of beer.
Put another way, it can take 70,000,000 gallons of petrol which would take an average motor car 11 times round the sun and back.”
The final cost of the ship was £6.5 million but, over the years, the Esso was riddled with problems both with the fittings and with cracking of the hull under stress.
Swan Hunters is remembered by many who grew up down Wallsend streets in shadow from the ships rising deck by deck in building berths on the Tyne, with bedrooms lit up at night by the flashes of the welders’ torches working on the speedily constructed Esso Northumbria. The great shipbuilding tradition of Tyneside was celebrated in Wallsend-born pop star Sting’s 2013 album release “The Last Ship”, drawn from his childhood memories at the family home in Wallsend.
3. Esso Northumbria was the part of eight VLCC built by the Swan Hunter Shipyard
The Esso Northumbria was part of a series of eight VLCCs built for Esso by the Swan Hunter shipyard. The Esso Northumbria was one of eight very large crude carriers (VLCCs) that were built by the Swan Hunter Shipyard in Wallsend, England, for Esso Petroleum in the 1970s. The other seven ships in the series were:
- Esso Hibernia
- Esso Columbia
- Esso Norway
- Esso Pacific
- Esso Atlantic
- Esso Aruba
- Esso Brittany
These ships were all designed to transport large quantities of crude oil from the Middle East to refineries in Europe and North America, and they were some of the largest ships of their time. The Esso Northumbria, in particular, was one of the largest ships ever to be built in the UK, and it was a source of pride for the country’s shipbuilding industry.
4. Ship was name after a Place named Northumbria
The ship was named after the region of Northumbria in northeast England, which includes the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, where the Swan Hunter shipyard was located.
“Northumbria” refers to a historic region and former kingdom in northern England, which encompassed parts of what is now modern-day Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham, and parts of Cumbria. The name derives from the Old English “Norþan-hymbre”, which means “the people or province north of the River Humber”.
The region was one of the most powerful and important kingdoms in Anglo-Saxon England, and its rulers played a significant role in the political and cultural development of the country during the early medieval period. The Kingdom of Northumbria was established in the 7th century and lasted until the 10th century, when it was absorbed into the emerging kingdom of England.
Today, the name “Northumbria” is still used to refer to the historic region and its cultural legacy, and it is also the name of a modern university in the region, the University of Northumbria at Newcastle.
5. Esso Northumbria was powered by a single steam turbine engine
The Esso Northumbria was powered by a single steam turbine engine, which was manufactured by the shipbuilder’s own engine division. The engine had a power output of 32,000 horsepower (24,000 kW), which was transmitted to a single propeller through a gearbox. This gave the ship a top speed of around 16 knots (30 km/h or 18.5 mph).
The use of a steam turbine engine was a common propulsion system for large ships in the mid-20th century. The engine used steam generated by boilers to turn a turbine, which in turn drove the ship’s propeller.
While steam turbines were relatively efficient and powerful, they required a significant amount of maintenance and were generally less fuel-efficient than diesel engines. However, they were still widely used in large ships like the Esso Northumbria at the time of its construction.
6. Esso Northumbria was full of problems when launched
Named by Princess Anne on 2nd May, 1969, the Esso Northumbria presented a problem by her sheer bulk, for a considerable portion of the opposite riverbank had to be cut away. All-welded in construction, she was given a raked stem, pronounced bulbous bow and modified cruiser stern of the “clearwater” type.
The sternframe was of cutaway “ham” type and the rudderof semi-balanced design. An overall discharge rate of 10,000 tons per hour could be made by means of four turbine-drivencentrifugal main cargo pumps. Propulsion was by geared turbines to a single screw to give 16 knots.
7. Ship had a crew of around 40 people, including officers, engineers, and seamen.
The Esso Northumbria had a crew of around 40 people, including officers, engineers, and seamen. The crew members were responsible for operating and maintaining the ship’s various systems and equipment, including the engine, navigation systems, and cargo handling equipment.
The crew was led by a captain, who was responsible for the overall operation of the ship and for ensuring the safety of the crew and the cargo. The ship also had several officers, including a chief mate, second mate, and third mate, who were responsible for navigation and communication with other ships and shore-based authorities.
In addition to the officers, the ship had a team of engineers who were responsible for maintaining and repairing the engine and other mechanical systems. The crew also included several seamen who were responsible for handling cargo, operating the ship’s deck equipment, and carrying out other tasks as needed.
The Captain and Master on their bicycles on their inspection tour ride up the deck of super tanker “Esso Northumbria”. The ship at over 1000 feet long was the biggest ship built in England.
It’s worth noting that the captain of a ship like the Esso Northumbria would have been a highly experienced and skilled mariner with many years of experience at sea.
Want to Know – How to become a Mariner/ or get a Job at sea?
8. Esso Northumbria was involved in various Groundings, Collision and Oil Spills
Esso Northumbria was involved in a collision with the Norwegian bulk carrier MV Horda on January 31, 1973. The accident occurred in dense fog off the coast of France, near the entrance to the English Channel.
The Esso Northumbria was en route from the Persian Gulf to the UK with a cargo of crude oil, while the MV Horda was sailing from Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Algeria with a cargo of iron ore. Both ships were severely damaged in the collision, with the Esso Northumbria suffering a large hole in its port side and the MV Horda sustaining damage to its bow.
Thankfully, there were no fatalities as a result of the collision. However, the Esso Northumbria spilled around 10,000 tons of crude oil into the sea, causing a significant oil slick that affected the coastline of Brittany, France. The spill led to environmental damage and a major cleanup effort, and the incident highlighted the potential risks and dangers associated with transporting large quantities of oil by sea.
The collision with the MV Horda in 1973 resulted in an estimated 10,000 tons of crude oil being spilled into the English Channel. The spill affected over 200 miles of coastline and caused significant environmental damage, including the deaths of thousands of seabirds.
After the collision, the Esso Northumbria was repaired and returned to service, but it was involved in several other incidents over the years, including a collision with another tanker in 1981 and a grounding in the Suez Canal in 1985.
9. Esso Northumbria was eventually sold for scrap in 1986 – Know Why?
The Esso Northumbria was eventually sold for scrap in 1986, along with several other large tankers that were being retired from service at the time. The ship had been in service for more than 20 years and had completed many voyages transporting crude oil and other petroleum products around the world.
By the mid-1980s, the ship was becoming increasingly outdated, and newer, more efficient tankers were being built to replace older vessels like the Esso Northumbria. As a result, the decision was made to retire the ship and sell it for scrap, which involved dismantling it and selling the metal and other materials for recycling.
While the Esso Northumbria was a significant vessel in its time, the retirement and scrapping of older ships is a common practice in the maritime industry, as newer vessels are built to meet changing demands and safety standards.
10. Esso Northumbria – was a source of Pride for Britain
The ship was one of the largest vessels ever to be built in the UK, and it was a source of pride for the country’s shipbuilding industry. However, the industry went into decline in the 1970s and 1980s, and many of the shipyards that had built ships like the Esso Northumbria were eventually closed down.
Long live the seafarers….