Vessel Size Classification

It can sometimes be confusing when looking at the various tanker size classifications that are used. Some terms seem to be used interchangeably while others seem only to be used in certain situations. Also, there is often a great deal of overlap between classifications such as Aframax and VLCC. For that reason, we have put together a list of how we define the tankers we track and how we classify them here on the website.

Our primary classification criteria is the tanker’s deadweight (DWT), a measure of a vessel’s carrying capacity, not including the empty weight of the ship. In addition to this, some size-releated criteria sometimes apply based on the areas through which these vessels travel. In the case of Panamax, for example, the length restriction is due to the size of the locks in the Panama Canal.

Name Minimum DWT Maximum DWT Carrying Capacity Other Criteria
Handysize 40,000 less than 300,000 barrels
Handymax 40,000 60,000 ~400,000 barrels
Panamax 60,000 80,000 ~500,000 barrels Length below 275 meters.
Aframax 80,000 120,000 ~750,000 barrels
Suezmax 120,000 200,000 ~1,000,000 barrels
VLCC 200,000 320,000 ~2,000,000 barrels
ULCC 320,000 550,000 up to 3,000,000 barrels

The “Carrying Capacity” numbers above are calculated using the average weight of Crude Oil and represent the typical amount of Crude Oil that we see these tankers carry. Were these vessels to carry product of an API gravity considerably lighter or heavier than Crude Oil, these numbers would no longer be accurate.

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