Energy transportation to Japan: the <i>Fujisan Maru</i>.(credit: Namura Shipbuilding).Energy transportation to Japan: the Fujisan Maru.(credit: Namura Shipbuilding).

Cinderellas of world seaborne trade, VLCCs make a vital, sustained contribution to global economic activity and wellbeing, with new levels of transportation efficiency achieved by the latest tonnage, writes David Tinsley.

The Japanese shipbuilding industry’s propensity for continual refinement and enhancement of proven designs and technologies is expressed in the new generation of VLCCs constructed primarily for the traffic out of the Persian Gulf to the Far East region. The so-called Malaccamax in its most recent iteration, as encapsulated by the 312,499dwt Fujisan Maru, which entered service earlier this year, provides a further increase in cargo volume to help lower the total cost per delivered barrel of crude oil.

The incremental gain in shipment size within the physical constraints set by navigation through the Strait of Malacca, the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, is a consequence of the extension of vessel length overall to around 339m from the approximate 333m that typically applied before. The third-generation ships of circa 333m had in turn followed the Malaccamax VLCC classes of about 322m and 315m. The optimisation represented in the fourth-generation also takes account of the parameters set by Japanese discharge ports and terminals.

Key producers of the type are Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding (MES-S), Japan Marine United, and Namura Shipbuilding. The latter’s Imari yard on Kyushu constructed the Fujisan Maru to the account of Tokyo-based Iino Kaiun Kaisha. The vessel is the fourth in a series ordered from Namura by domestic owners, and further newbuilds of the design are in hand at Imari, including two for Kyoei Tanker Co.

Currently on passage to Chiba from the Saudi Arabian loading point at Ras Tanura, Fujisan Maru offers a revenue-earning capacity of 351,296m3, employing a high-throughput triple pump installation affording the capability to handle three grades of cargo oil. Two stripping eductors contribute to efficient and thorough unloading.

The main engine is an MAN seven-cylinder G80ME-C9.5 two-stroke diesel, widely favoured for such tonnage, and is rated in the specific application for a maximum continuous output of 24,700kW at 67rpm. As denoted by the larger funnel casing than that of previous representatives of the design, the vessel is equipped with a scrubber plant, thereby ensuring the IMO 2020 global sulphur cap can be met while burning heavy fuel oil (HFO). The ship’s four diesel generators deliver a total 5,550kVA.

Propulsive performance benefits from an improved hull form and incorporation of proprietary energy saving devices including the Namura flow control fin and rudder fin, together with a hub vortex reducing propeller boss cap, and low-friction antifoulings. Wind pressure resistance is also lessened by the aerodynamic, narrow superstructure.

Located between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the Strait of Malacca is about 900km long and varies in width from 250km at its western end to less than 3km at the Phillips Channel, close to Singapore, at the eastern end. The draught for crude carriers is determined by the Strait’s average minimum depth of 25m, the principal constraint being set by the relatively shallow Singapore Strait.

Vessels exceeding Malaccamax dimensions must detour a few thousand nautical miles to the south of Java and east of Borneo, by routing through the Lombok Strait and Makassar Strait, then proceeding via the Sibutu Passage and the Philippines’ Mindoro Strait.


Length overall


Length bp


Breadth, moulded






Cargo capacity




Gross tonnage


Main engine power






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