The year 2015 is not so old but already two of the major influences in the chemical and vegetable oils shipping business have, sadly, passed away – Jacob Stolt-Nielsen in February and Abraham Odfjell in March. I worked for both of them and admired them greatly although they were very different personalities.

Jacob Stolt-Nielsen was the visionary who started the chemical tanker business on a worldwide track and developed it into a major industry, so much so that it now occupies its own, very dominant segment of the tanker industry. He grew Stolt-Nielsen into the largest company of its kind and handed it over to his son Niels G Stolt-Nielsen in excellent shape.
Abraham Odfjell led a split from the Odfjell family group and, together with Johnson Line of Sweden, started and grew Jo Tankers into a leading operator in the chemical tanker business. Always conscious of the dramatic ups-and-downs in the industry, he maintained a strong, and privately owned company through bad times as well as good.

When looking at the fleet of chemical tankers today, I notice that 1986 was almost the end of the era of the initial series of parcel tankers built with centre tanks of stainless steel and wing tanks with zinc silicate coatings. This configuration allowed a full cargo of phosphoric acid or sulphuric acid to be carried in the centre tanks. The zinc-coated wing tanks allowed cargoes of methanol or vegetable oils to be carried as back-hauls.

1986 saw Stolt-Nielsen take delivery of a series of five 38,700 dwt ships of this type built in the Daewoo yard in Korea, all with stainless steel centre tanks and zinc silicate wing tanks; and all are still sailing. With the new, more stringent regulations, they are mainly only using the centre tanks. I am proud to have been involved in the initial stages of their design process, trying to assess the ideal number and size of tanks to cover all aspects of the business. They were delivered five years after I left Stolt-Nielsen.

The year also saw the last of the initial series of ships built to join the Jo Tankers fleet. She was the Jo Brevik of 33,500 dwt, built in Norway’s Ankerlokken shipyard for a company called Borgestad, specifically for Jo Tankers and to a Jo Tankers design with two sister ships preceding her. Also with stainless steel centre tanks and zinc silicate wing tanks, she has since been converted to a fully double hull ship and is sailing for Odfjell Tankers as the Bow Viking. She is currently on the market for sale.

Jo Tankers
It was the announcement that the Bow Viking was for sale that prompted me to look at the development of Jo Tankers up to the time she was built. All of the ships I refer to here have stainless steel centre tanks and zinc silicate wing tanks.

Following the split from the Odfjell group, Abraham Odfjell under the company name JO Odfjell, made an agreement with the large Swedish Shipping Group ‘Johnson Line’ to build two large parcel tankers of about 38,000 dwt and to run them together as a joint venture. Johnson Line ordered their two ships from the Kockums shipyard in Malmo, Sweden. These were named Johnson Chemstar and Johnson Chemsun of 37,500 dwt each and were delivered in 1980.

Odfjell ordered their two ships from the BMV yard in Bergen, named Jo Lonn and Jo Birk, 39,000 dwt each, and both were delivered in 1982. Subsequently JO Odfjell received an offer from the yard to build a third sister ship there and she was delivered in 1983 as Jo Oak. Both the Kockums yard and the BMV yard closed their doors after building these ships, having lost a lot of money in the process.

In the meantime, JO Odfjell had noticed another ship of similar construction being built in the Ankerlokken yard on the west coast of Norway. At that time the yard was in two locations and built ships in two halves, the bow in Forde and the stern in Floro, these being welded together in Floro. There was also a large rock between the slipway and the fitting-out berth that limited the beam of the ships to 29.5 metres instead of the customary 32 metres.

The ship under construction was the Pollux. After being acquired by JO Odfjell, she was renamed Jo Clipper on delivery in early 1982. At the same time Johnson Line decided to order one sister to the Jo Clipper. This was the Johnson Chemspan delivered in 1982.

Finally two smaller ships of 17,500 dwt were ordered from the Nakskov yard in Denmark, these were the Jo Cypress, delivered in April 1983 and later sold to Ultragas of Chile and renamed Vicuna; and the Johnson Chemstream, delivered in August 1983 and later sold to SPIC of India.



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