The fleet capable of carrying vegetable oils continues to grow. At the half-year mark, there were 4,181 ships with IMO Certificates and a total of 93.5 million tons deadweight (dwt). Their uses range from fine chemicals and highly hazardous chemicals through easy chemicals, oleochemicals and edible oils, to fertilisers, acids and refined products such as base oil. All of these are carried in chemical tankers with IMO Certificates.
Ships are required to have IMO 2 Certificates to carry vegetable oils; there are 3,191 of these with a total of 60.1 million dwt. Their size ranges from 1,000-81,000 dwt. Additionally, there are 904 ships with a total of 32.7 million dwt that have IMO 3 Certificates and which could be granted dispensation to carry vegetable oils if they meet certain criteria.
This leaves just 86 ships and 707,000 dwt that have either a complete single hull or a double bottom and single sides. Even some of these are still carrying vegetable oils, on coastal voyages within their country of registration or, in the case of double bottom ships, internationally using their centre tanks only. In theory, this gives the vegetable oil charterers plenty of choice of tonnage to carry their products.
Let us contrast these figures with the situation at the end of 2006, the final year before the new regulations requiring vegetable oils to be carried in IMO 2 ships.
Back then, there were 3,118 ships with a total tonnage of 62.2 million dwt that could legally carry vegetable oils. Of these, 437 with a total of 10 million dwt had no IMO Certificates and thus were ruled out of the trade from Jan 1, 2007. The 3,118 ships were those that either had IMO Certificates (2,681 ships) or those regularly seen in the chemical or vegetable oil trades but without IMO Certificates.
Of course, both then and to a lesser extent now, the number of available ships varied and there were certainly many ships that could not carry vegetable oils due to their last cargoes not being acceptable; other commitments; lack of appropriate heating (for tropical oils to Europe in winter); or because their owners would not allow their nice clean chemical tanks to be used for vegetable oils!
I should re-emphasise that from Jan 1, 2007, vegetable oils became, to all intents and purposes, chemicals as far as their carriage by sea is concerned. Thus the methods of handling them, as well as the ship operators involved in the trade, changed … or did they?