Monday, August 22, 2011
Baku Spring of 1878 - Ludvig Nobel builds the world's first modern tanker
Zoroaster was the world’s first Bessemer steel ship and got its name from the fire worshippers’ prophet Zarathustra, which also became the Branobel’s company symbol.
The transport of oil on the waterways from Baku to the market in Europe required fresh ideas. With his experiences of building tankers for the Russian navy, Ludvig Nobel became the first person to design and order a tanker built of steel. In 1877, an order was placed at Motala works' shipyards at Lindholmen in Gothenburg. The vessels was christened Zoroaster, after the Iranian philosopher, Zarathustra, whose theses were very popular among Europeans of the time.
By as early as 1872, the first tanker had been built of steel (s/s Vaderland) so as to transport oil in bulk, but was put to another use. Robert and Ludvig Nobel considered loading paraffin and oil directly into the hull, but Robert assumed that: "the lapping of the waves on board could become more dangerous than the ocean waves". Practical trials proved that he was right. The Americans shipped oil across the Atlantic in large oak casks, which were not infrequently broken apart during the voyage. There was a great risk of an explosion. Tankers were the right idea, but how to make them safe with their inflammable load?
Ludvig had previously been working on designing steam engines for the Russian navy's vessels. Now he was able to make use of his experiences and ordered a boat built of Bessemer steel in November 1877, the first in the world. He ordered this from a supplier who would later deliver many vessels to Branobel - the Swedish Lindholmen's shipyard in Gothenburg, owned by Motala works where the engineer Almqvist was manager. Together, they designed a vessel with built in cisterns. The steamer was christened, Zoroaster, after the fire worshippers' prophet, Zarathustra, who was also to become Branobel's company symbol. The religion of the Zoroasters was fashionable and many Europeans were interested in it.
The dimensions and draught of the steamer were determined by the water flows in the Don and Volga. During two weeks of high water in the spring, it was possible to sail from the Baltic to the Caspian Sea. Zoroaster's eight loose cisterns could be removed so as to reduce its draught in shallows channels. It was Ludvig's first son, Hjalmar Crusell, who took the vessel across the Baltic through the Russian river system and waterways to Baku in May 1878. Since the Nobel brothers were Swedish citizens, it was the Finnish and Russian citizen, Peter von Bilderling, who formally became responsible for the Nobels' shipping company.