Maintenance and Repair

Individual countries also regulate maintenance and repair for tankers. In the U.S., tankers are required to dry-dock twice every five years to check for steel corrosion and other damage that might compromise the safety of the ship. During this process, the dry-dock is filled with water so the ship can float in and then drained so that the entire hull can be inspected. Classification societies (see Design & Safety of tankers) may also impose additional requirements and require regular maintenance surveys in order for ships to maintain their classification.[i]

Tankers regularly repaired and brought up to standard are less likely to be severely damaged by an Iranian attack. For example, a fire is less likely to spread on routinely inspected tankers because those tankers will have the most up to date fire supression systems.[ii]

In case tankers are attacked, there are significant repair capabilities in the Persian Gulf region. The two major Gulf shipyards are the Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard Company (ASRY), owned by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), and Dubai Drydocks, owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). ASRY has four ULCC-sized repair berths and is in the midst of expansion.[iii] Dubai Drydocks can accommodate up to eight VLCCs/ULCCs at a time.[iv] These shipyards have significant capacity to perform oil tanker repairs and maintenance, regularly servicing 40-50 vessels in a six month period.[v] Both shipyards can repair engines, hull damage, tanks, painting, steel renewal and replacement, etc.

Both ASRY[vi] and Dubai Drydocks[vii] currently operate at virtually full capacity. As a result, ships damaged by the Iranians may not be able to be repaired quickly, limiting the supply of tankers that can transport oil. However, it is possible these facilities could reprioritize ship repairs and repair the tankers damaged by the Iranians first. Moreover, ASRY and Dubai Drydocks are building a total of ten new docks capable of handling VLCCs by 2010.[viii]

[i] Interview with individuals from ExxonMobil, Austin, TX, November 28, 2007.

[ii] "Tanker Fire Safety," National Fire Protection Association Journal, (May/June 1998). Online. Available: Accessed: April 3, 2008.

[iii], Bahrain Facilities. Online. Available: Accessed: December 4, 2007.

[iv] Dubai Drydocks, Shipyard Layout and Capacity: Docks and Berths. Online. Available: Accessed December 4, 2007.

[v] "Repair Roundup-- ASRY Shipyard Boasts Full Orderbook," Lloyd's List (July 16, 2002).

[vi] "Asry sales increase 19pc to $143m," Gulf Daily News (March 20, 2008). Online. Available: Accessed: April 3, 2008.

[vii] "Dubai Drydocks World plans shipyard expansion in Asia," Khaleej Times Online, January 11, 2008. Online. Available: Accessed: April 3, 2008.

[viii] "Building boom threat to Middle East shiprepair yards, warns ASRY," Lloyd's List. Online. Available: Accessed: April 3, 2008.

This page last modified in August 2008