British Tanker Company

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British Tanker Company Limited
Industry Ship transport
Founded 1915
Headquarters England
Owners Anglo-Persian Oil Company

British Tanker Company Limited was the maritime transport arm of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the forerunner of BP. The British Tanker Company was formed in 1915 with an initial fleet of seven oil tankers. The Company became the BP Tanker Company in 1955.

History 1915 to 1945[edit]

British Emperor, launched in 1916

From the moment oil was discovered in Persia (now Iran) in May 1908, the issue arose of how best to ship it back to Britain. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) initially employed independent contractors to carry the oil by sea. However, the directors of the APOC soon decided it would be better for the company to possess its own fleet of tankers. It set up the British Tanker Company Limited (BTC) in April 1915, with an initial capital of £100,000. The BTC placed orders with two Tyne based shipbuilders, Armstrong Whitworth and Swan Hunter, for a total of 7 steam-powered oil tankers.

The BTC's first tanker was the 3,663 gross tonnage British Emperor, launched in 1916. She was employed to take oil from Abadan to the ports of Bombay, Karachi, Madras and Calcutta. Her career eventually ended in 1941, when she was sunk by the German auxiliary cruiser Pinguin, after evading all the Pinguin's attempts to capture her intact.

The names of all the first 7 ships bore the prefix "British", and all future additions to the fleet followed the same naming convention.

The BTC's share capital was doubled to £200,000 in 1916, and further increased to £3,000,000 in November 1917.

Over the next decade, the demand for oil grew throughout the industrialised world, and the BTC expanded its fleet accordingly. By just 1924 the fleet numbered 60 vessels. The 60th ship was the new flagship, the 6,998 gross tonnage British Aviator. She was the BTC's first diesel engined oil tanker, and was at that time the most powerful single-screw motor ship in the world.

The cargoes carried by the BTC were crude oil and refined oil products; the main refined products being fuel oil, benzine and kerosine. During the 1920s the principal destination for the BTC was the United Kingdom, which accounted for around half of all cargoes discharged. Twice as much crude oil was delivered to the United Kingdom than refined products, with most of the crude oil being taken to the refineries at Llandarcy and Grangemouth. The next largest destination for the BTC was India, receiving 14% of the total cargoes carried. Cargoes discharged in Europe increased steadily, and by 1928 accounted for 13% of the total. In 1928 the BTC's fleet consisted of 80 seagoing tankers, 5 coastal vessels, and 4 government owned steamers, with a further 13 seagoing tankers being chartered by the BTC.

With the onset of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, the merchant navies around the world faced increasing unemployment. However, through a number of strategic mergers, as well as the continuing support of the Shah of Iran, the APOC managed to strengthen its position within the industry, and the BTC's fleet continued to grow.

With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the British government chartered the BTC's whole fleet of 93 vessels, to transport fuel for its armed forces. The fleet lost 41 ships sunk during the war, many during the Battle of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean U-Boat campaign, with 2 others so badly damaged they could only be used as storage hulks.

Fleet list 1930 to 1945[edit]

Ship Built Gross Tonnage Photo Built by Notes
British Admiral 1917 6,842 British Admiral 1917.jpg Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Scrapped in 1937
British Advocate 1922 6,994 Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd, Sunderland Captured 20 February 1941 by the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer
British Ambassador 1924 6,940 Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd, Sunderland
British Architect 1922 7,388 Blythswood Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Glasgow
British Ardour 1928 7,124 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 5 April 1943 by torpedo from German submarine U-706
British Aviator 1924 6,998 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle First diesel engined vessel
British Beacon 1918 6,891 Workman, Clark & Co Ltd, Belfast
British Birch 1916 5,882 Short Brothers Ltd, Sunderland Built as Birchleaf. Renamed British Birch in 1920. Scrapped in 1931
British Captain 1923 6,968 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 2 December 1941 by mine
British Chancellor 1921 7,086 British Chancellor 1921.jpg Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd, Sunderland
British Character 1941 8,453 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Chemist 1925 6,997 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle
British Chivalry 1929 7,118 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 22 February 1944 by torpedo from Japanese submarine I-37
British Colonel 1921 6,999 Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd, Sunderland
British Colony 1927 6,917 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 13 May 1942 by torpedo from German submarine U-162
British Commander 1922 6,896 British Commander 1922.jpg Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Dundee Sunk 26 August 1940 by the German auxiliary cruiser Pinguin
British Commerce 1922 4,205 William Beardmore & Co Ltd, Glasgow
British Commodore 1923 6,865 Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Dundee
British Confidence 1936 8,494 Cammell Laird & Co Ltd, Birkenhead
British Consul 1924 6,940 Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd, Sunderland Sunk 19 August 1942 by torpedo from German submarine U-564
British Corporal 1922 6,972 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 18 August 1942 by torpedo from German submarine U-598
British Councillor 1922 7,045 Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd, Sunderland Sunk 3 February 1940 by mine
British Courage 1928 6,952 Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow
British Destiny 1937 8,470 Harland & Wolff Ltd, Glasgow
British Diligence 1937 8,408 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Diplomat 1926 6,484 John Brown & Co Ltd, Clydebank Requisitioned by the Ministry of War Transport in 1940 and renamed Empire Diplomat. Laid up in 1944 and scrapped in 1946.
British Dominion 1928 6,983 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 10 January 1943 by torpedo from German submarine U-620 while sailing in Convoy TM 1
British Duchess 1924 5,973 StateLibQld 1 125191 British Duchess (ship).jpg J L Thompson & Sons Ltd, Sunderland
British Emperor 1916 3,637 British Emperor 1916.jpg Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 7 May 1941 by the German auxiliary cruiser Pinguin
British Empress 1917 6,847 British Empress 1917.jpg Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Endeavour 1927 4,580 Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 22 February 1940 by torpedo from German submarine U-50
British Endurance 1936 8,406 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Energy 1931 7,209 Greenock Dockyard Co Ltd, Greenock
British Engineer 1922 6,993 British Engineer 1922.jpg Workman, Clark & Co Ltd, Belfast
British Ensign 1917 7,048 Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle
British Enterprise 1921 4,204 British Enterprise 1921.jpg William Beardmore & Co Ltd, Glasgow
British Faith 1928 6,950 StateLibQld 1 127259 British Faith (ship).jpg Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Dundee Scrapped at Milford Haven in 1956
British Fame 1936 8,303 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 12 August 1940 by torpedo from Italian submarine Alessandro Malaspina
British Fern 1917 5,831 Napier & Miller Ltd, Glasgow Built as Fernleaf. Scrapped in 1931
British Fidelity 1938 8,465 Harland & Wolff Ltd, Glasgow
British Fortitude 1937 8,482 Cammell Laird & Co Ltd, Birkenhead Damaged 23 February 1943 by torpedo from German submarine U-202, but survived
British Fortune 1930 4,696 Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow Sunk 31 October 1941 by German aircraft
British Freedom 1928 6,985 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 14 January 1945 by torpedo from German submarine U-1232
British Fusilier 1923 6,943 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British General 1922 6,985 British General 1922.jpg Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 7 October 1940 by torpedo from German submarine U-37
British Genius 1939 8,553 William Doxford & Sons Ltd, Sunderland
British Glory 1928 6,993 Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd, Sunderland Damaged 15 October 1940 by torpedo from German submarine U-138, but survived
British Governor 1926 6,840 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Gratitude 1942 8,463 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Grenadier 1922 6,888 British Grenadier 1922.jpg Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 22 May 1941 by torpedo from German submarine U-103
British Gunner 1922 6,894 British Gunner 1922.jpg Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 24 February 1941 by torpedo from German submarine U-97
British Harmony 1941 8,453 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Holly 1917 5,162 William Hamilton & Co Ltd, Port Glasgow Scrapped in 1931
British Honour 1928 6,991 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle
British Hope 1928 6,951 Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Dundee
British Hussar 1923 6,944 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Industry 1927 4,297 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle
British Influence 1939 8,431 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 14 September 1939 by torpedo and gunfire from German submarine U-29
British Integrity 1937 8,412 Harland & Wolff Ltd, Glasgow
British Inventor 1926 7,101 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 13 June 1940 by mine
British Isles 1917 7,108 British Isles 1917.jpg Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle Scrapped in 1938
British Judge 1921 6,735 British Judge 1921.jpg Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd, Sunderland
British Justice 1928 6,982 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle
British Lady 1923 6,098 J L Thompson & Sons Ltd, Sunderland
British Lantern 1918 6,897 Workman, Clark & Co Ltd, Belfast Taken over by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in 1937 as RFA Oligarch. Survived the War but was scuttled in the Red Sea in 1945.[1]
British Liberty 1939 8,435 Furness Shipbuilding Co, Haverton Hill-on-Tees Sunk 6 January 1940 by mine
British Light 1917 6,470 British Light 1917.jpg Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle
British Lord 1922 6,098 British Lord 1922.jpg J L Thompson & Sons Ltd, Sunderland
British Loyalty 1928 6,993 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 9 March 1944 by torpedo from German submarine U-183, but salvaged as a hulk
British Maple 1898 8,747 StateLibQld 1 128590 British Maple (ship).jpg CS Swan & Hunter, Wallsend Built as Mount Royal, renamed Mapleleaf in 1916. Acquired 1919 & renamed British Maple in 1920. Hulked in 1933 and scrapped in 1935.
British Mariner 1922 6,996 British Mariner 1922.jpg Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Severely damaged 20 October 1941 by torpedo from German submarine U-126, but salvaged and used as a hulk
British Merchant 1922 6,994 British Merchant 1922.jpg William Beardmore & Co Ltd, Glasgow
British Merit 1942 8,093 Harland & Wolff Ltd, Glasgow Damaged 25 July 1942 by torpedo from German submarine U-552, but survived
British Might 1945 8,200 Harland & Wolff Ltd, Glasgow
British Motorist 1924 6,891 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 19 February 1942 by Japanese aircraft
British Officer 1922 6,990 British Officer 1922.jpg Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 1 December 1940 by mine
British Patience 1943 8,097 Harland & Wolff Ltd, Glasgow
British Petrol 1925 6,906 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 14 June 1940 by the German auxiliary cruiser Widder
British Pluck 1928 1,025 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Renamed Shelbrit 1 in 1936
British Power 1936 8,451 Harland & Wolff Ltd, Glasgow
British Premier 1922 5,872 British Premier 1922.jpg Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 24 December 1940 by torpedo from German submarine U-65
British Prestige 1931 7,106 Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow
British Pride 1931 7,106 Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow
British Princess 1917 7,019 Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle
British Progress 1927 4,581 Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle Scrapped 4 November 1943 after being severely damaged by torpedo from a German E-Boat
British Promise 1942 8,443 Cammell Laird & Co Ltd, Birkenhead Damaged 21 November 1942 by torpedo from German submarine U-518, but survived
British Prudence 1939 8,620 Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd, Sunderland Sunk 23 March 1942 by torpedo from German submarine U-754
British Purpose 1943 5,845 Furness Shipbuilding Co, Haverton Hill-on-Tees Damaged 20 October 1943 by torpedo from German submarine U-532, but survived
British Reliance 1928 7,000 Greenock Dockyard Co Ltd, Greenock Sunk 2 April 1941 by torpedo from German submarine U-46
British Renown 1928 6,997 Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd, Sunderland Damaged 21 November 1942 by torpedo from German submarine U-518, but survived
British Resolution 1937 8,408 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Resource 1931 7,209 Greenock Dockyard Co Ltd, Greenock Sunk 15 March 1942 by torpedo from German submarine U-124
British Respect 1943 8,479 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Restraint 1943 8,448 Cammell Laird & Co Ltd, Birkenhead
British Sailor 1918 5,576 British Sailor 1918.jpg Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Originally built as War Rajah. Renamed British Sailor in 1920
British Science 1931 7,138 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 18 April 1941 by torpedo from Italian aircraft
British Scout 1922 1,507 British Scout 1922.jpg Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Security 1937 8,470 Harland & Wolff Ltd, Glasgow Sunk 23 May 1941 by torpedo from German submarine U-566
British Sergeant 1922 5,868 British Sergeant 1922.jpg Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 9 April 1942 by Japanese aircraft
British Sincerity 1939 8,533 Cammell Laird & Co Ltd, Birkenhead
British Soldier 1918 5,564 British Soldier 1918.jpg William Gray & Co Ltd, Hartlepool Originally built as War Sikh. Renamed British Soldier in 1919
British Sovereign 1917 3,657 British Sovereign 1917.jpg Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle
British Splendour 1931 7,138 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 7 April 1942 by torpedo from German submarine U-552
British Star 1918 6,888 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Renamed Clynthus 1937
British Statesman 1923 6,991 Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd, Sunderland
British Strength 1931 7,139 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 15 March 1941 by German battleship Scharnhorst or Gneisenau
British Tenacity 1939 8,439 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Thrift 1928 707 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Renamed Thriftie in 1935, then Shelbrit 2 in 1936
British Tommy 1921 1,411 Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow
British Trader 1921 4,204 British Trader 1921.jpg William Beardmore & Co Ltd, Glasgow
British Tradition 1942 8,443 Cammell Laird & Co Ltd, Birkenhead
British Triumph 1936 8,402 Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow Sunk 13 February 1940 by mine
British Trust 1939 8,466 Harland & Wolff Ltd, Glasgow Sunk 1 May 1943 by torpedo from German aircraft
British Union 1927 6,987 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 18 January 1941 by the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran
British Unity 1939 8,407 Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow
British Valour 1927 6,952 Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow
British Venture 1930 4,696 Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow Sunk 24 June 1943 by torpedo, from Japanese submarine I-27
British Vigilance 1942 8,093 Harland & Wolff Ltd, Glasgow Sunk 24 January 1943 by torpedo from German submarine U-105
British Vigour 1943 5,844 Furness Shipbuilding Co, Haverton Hill-on-Tees
British Virtue 1945 8,500 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle
British Viscount 1921 6,895 British Viscount 1921.jpg Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 3 April 1941 by torpedo fromGerman submarine U-73
British Wisdom 1945 8,130 Blythswood Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Glasgow
British Workman 1922 6,994 British Workman 1922.jpg Workman, Clark & Co Ltd, Belfast Sunk 3 May 1942 by torpedo from German submarine U-455
British Yeoman 1923 6,990 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Sunk 15 July 1942 by torpedo from German submarine U-201
British Zeal 1937 8,532 Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow Damaged 31 December 1940 by torpedo from German submarine U-65, but survived
Shelbrit 1 1928 1,025 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Originally built as the British Pluck. Renamed Shelbrit 1 in 1936
Shelbrit 2 1928 695 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Originally built as the British Thrift. Renamed Thriftie in 1935, then Shelbrit 2 in 1936
Thriftie 1928 695 Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle Originally built as the British Thrift. Renamed Thriftie in 1935, then Shelbrit 2 in 1936
War Nawab 1919 5,586 War Nawab 1919.jpg Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Operated for the Shipping Controller. Transferred to Admiralty in 1921, then to RFA in 1936, scrapped 1958.[2]
War Nizam 1918 5,605 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Operated for the Shipping Controller. Transferred to Admiralty in 1921, then to RFA in 1937, scrapped 1949.[3]
War Sudra 1920 5,599 Palmers' Shipbuilding & Iron Co Ltd, Newcastle Operated for the Shipping Controller. Transferred to Admiralty in 1921. Sold 1948, renamed Germaine in 1951, scrapped 1954.[4]

History since 1945[edit]

Within a year of peace in 1945, the BTC had restored its fleet to its pre-war total of 93 ships. The recovery was further bolstered by the building of 57 new tankers, each of 8,600 gross tonnage. These new ships increased the tonnage of oil transported from the Abadan refinery, but they remained light enough to sail through the shallow waters of the Suez Canal.

In 1951 the situation changed dramatically, when Iran nationalised its oil industry. The APOC removed all its staff from the country, and for the time being it had no access to Iranian oil. The APOC set about forming new alliances with other oil producing countries, especially Kuwait and Bahrain.

In the early 1950s the BTC began increasing the size of its deep-sea ships by building 13 so-called 'supertankers', each with a gross tonnage of 18,000. These larger ships were particularly useful during the Suez crisis of 1956, which closed the Suez Canal and forced ships to sail around the Cape of South Africa, adding 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km) to their journey.

In November 1954 the APOC renamed itself the British Petroleum Company, and in 1955 the BTC became the BP Tanker Company. By the end of the 1950s, the BP Tanker Company's fleet stood at 146 vessels, including supertankers of 38,000 gross tonnage (67,000 deadweight tonnes), with plans to build tankers of 60,000 gross tonnage (100,000 deadweight tonnes), which would hold more than 25 million US gallons (95,000 m3) of crude oil.

House flag[edit]

BTC House flag, 1915 to 1926

The first house flag consisted of the black letters BTC set in a white circle on a white horizontal band, the white bordered with black, all set against a red background.

In 1926 the flag was changed to include the Persian colours. This new house flag consisted of the red Cross of Saint George on a white background, with a large green lozenge imposed over the centre of the cross, the lozenge containing a golden lion 'passant guardant'; the lion being a symbol of Persia. This remained until 1954, when a red lion ‘rampant’ replaced the golden lion.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Oligarch". Red Sea Wreck Project. DiveMedia. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Forces War Records". Retrieved 2014-04-07. 
  3. ^ "Forces War Records". Retrieved 2014-04-07. 
  4. ^ "Forces War Records". Retrieved 2014-04-07. 
  • National Archives, Kew
  • BP Magazine Issue 2, 2009: page 24
  • Lloyd's shipping registers
  • Harvey, WJ; Solly, Dr RJ (2005). BP Tankers: A Group Fleet History. London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-251-1. 
  • Ferrier, RW (1982). The History of the British Petroleum Company. 1 The Developing Years, 1901–1932. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 292–294. ISBN 978-0-521-24647-7. 

External links[edit]

  • [1] Plimsoll Ship Data website - Lloyd's shipping registers 1930 to 1945
  • [2] Allied ships hit by U-Boats during the Second World War
  • [3] National Archives, Kew - Second World War Merchant shipping movement cards
  • [4] The position of ship wrecks - vessels of the British Tanker Company