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BP Shipping Turns 100

BP VLGC
VLGC British Courage - Image Courtesy of BP Group

Published Apr 30, 2015 10:01 AM by The Maritime Executive

BP Shipping today celebrates its 100-year anniversary, making it the longest continually operating company in the BP group.

Formed on April 30, 1915 as the British Tanker Company, the business has adapted to significant world events including two world wars, the Great Depression, closures of the Suez Canal, and the impact of oil nationalizations on the world economy and the movement of oil and gas.

BP vessels and seafarers saw service in both world wars. When the Second World War began in 1939 the British government chartered all 93 vessels in the BP Shipping (then British Tanker Company Limited) fleet. Fifty BP tankers – half of the entire fleet - were sunk in the Atlantic and Arctic Convoys and other theaters of war with the tragic loss of 657 lives.

The work of a team of BP Master Mariners in the post-war period plotting precise ‘actual route’ measurements port-to-port led to the publication of the BP World Wide Marine Distance Tables. Today, they are not only the industry standard for voyage calculations but are also a key determinant of the Worldscale Freight Rates Schedules which underpin commercial chartering arrangements across the shipping industry.

John Ridgway, CEO of BP Shipping, said: “I am delighted to have led this great business in its centenary year, and all the many thousands of people that have served BP Shipping over the course of a century can be rightly proud of the company.”

Across the 100 years, the company has been responsible for the construction of more than 500 oil and gas tankers – an average launch rate of one new ship every 10 weeks of the century – as well as a myriad of small vessels to support BP’s international operations.

Today, BP Shipping operates some 50 oil and gas carriers with a further 200 large vessels and 400 coastal and barge vessels under charter transporting cargoes of oil, gas, refined products, lubricants and petrochemicals. It also employs around 1,300 seafarers.

John Ridgway added: “BP Shipping’s purpose has remained broadly the same for 100 years – that is to transport oil and gas for the BP group safely and securely. I have no doubt the business is well-placed to continue to do that for another 100 years.”

BP Shipping statistics

  • Owned or operated oil and gas tankers: c.500
  • Owned or operated tankers and small vessels: c. 1000
  • Owned or operated tanker fleet numbers peak: 160 ships (2 million dwt) in 1955
  • Owned or operated tanker fleet dwt peak: 6.8 million dwt (97 ships) in 1974
  • Owned or operated tanker fleet in 2015: c. 50 ships at 5 million dwt in 2015