Zoroaster’s Legacy: The First Oil Tanker and Its Innovative Steel Construction

Zoroaster’s Legacy: The Zoroaster, the First Oil Tanker, was constructed in 1878. Steel was used to build the hull; this material became available in the latter part of the 1800s when Henry Bessemer discovered a way to extract vast amounts of steel from pig iron. Iron tanks were installed on the ship to store the oil. The inventors of this invention were Ludvig and Robert Nobel. To transport the oil from its source to the ship’s tanks, they created an oil pipeline. They created a ballast system to help the ship stay stable.

Later on, they constructed more tankers to transport oil up the Volga and Don rivers and across the Caspian Sea. The Volga River joined the Caspian Sea through the Baltic Sea, canals, and smaller rivers, making the route ideal for tanker passage during high water levels following the winter thaw. The ships were built in Sweden. These tankers were the first to use ships to transport liquid cargo.

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The Zoroaster Tanker Ship’s History

Zoroaster Tanker Ship's History

An antiquated technology was used to move oil across water channels before tanker ships were used. Someone put oil into casks and drums, and then moved them to the appropriate places. Loading the vessels took longer than expected, as well as security and safety issues with the oil stored inside.

In the Soviet Republic, ship-based transportation was a prevalent practice, particularly in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, where the majority of rock oil excavation activities were centered.

Ludvig Nobel proposed an alternative method of transporting the extracted oil between the production areas and the refineries. Rather than filling casks and then loading them onto ships, a pipeline would directly fill the extracted rock oil into the storage tanks built within the vessel. He closely observed the methods used to transport the extracted oil to the refineries and then put the concept of building tanker ships into practice.

The design of the oil tanks inside the vessel was methodically investigated along with the notion of building tanker ships. This was due to the possibility of an accident if the tanks were built close to the engine and boiler compartments. Even if there is inadequate ventilation, mishaps and explosions may occur. Robert, Ludwig Nobel’s brother, made a similarly significant contribution to the building of the tanker vessel.

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Ludwig Nobel’s suggestion was first received with opposition, and few nautical experts thought his notion had any chance of success. Oil was transported directly from the drilling zones to the vessel in 1877, despite the skepticism of the marine industry. In the same year, the Swedish inventor also gave the go-ahead for a Swedish shipbuilding yard to create a vessel that explicitly took the aforementioned factors into account. Thus, Zoroaster—the first tanker ship in history—was constructed.

Key Characteristics of the First Tanker in History

 The world’s first tanker ship, the Zoroaster tanker, was named after the Persian prophet Zarathustra and launched in 1878. Iron was used to construct the oil tanker holds, whereas steel (Bessemer variation) was used to build the tanker ship.

The tanker ship Zoroaster had highly sophisticated technology for its time. Adding ballast tanks strengthened and balanced the vessel on the water.

Zoroaster tanker had a length of 180 feet, a width of 35 feet, and a draft of 10 feet. Ships carrying crude lamp oil (kerosene) could travel the Volga River and Caspian Sea routes between Astrakhan and Baku.

Following Zoroaster’s successful employment, the Nobel brothers commissioned eight additional vessels for their company Branobel in the ensuing years, making the necessary constructional adjustments. The productivity of each vessel’s operation was equal to or greater than Zoroaster’s, and thus effectively molded the use of tankers to meet the demands of significant maritime operations for centuries to come. The Zoroaster Tanker Ship originated contemporary tanker transportation.

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