Part of the Acorn Archive

Hearts of Oak





A Petition to the Suez Canal Company

Petroleum Tank Steamers


The Times 28th December 1891

Bulk Petroleum on the Suez Canal


The following Petition was presented

to the president and directors of the Suez Canal Company.


We, the undersigned, shipowners, who are largely interested in the navigation of the Suez Canal, and the traffic through the same, and the safe conduct thereof, having been informed that the Suez Canal Company are negotiating with a syndicate who desire to obtain permission for the carriage of petroleum in bulk on the Suez Canal in tank steamers, intended to be constructed by the syndicate for the purpose, and so fitted as to carry abnormally large quantities of oil to the shell of the steamer, in what are regarded as excessively large tanks, respectfully submit to the directors of the company the following considerations, to which we beg their careful attention:-


1 That, in view of  the high temperature of the Canal, the exceptional traffic on the Canal, and its extraordinary value, no such permission as that sought should be granted, unless the ordinary traffic can be secured against all risks attendant upon the carriage of petroleum under such exceptional conditions.


2 That any accident in the Canal to a steamer carrying bulk petroleum in such large quantities, whether caused by fire or otherwise, would, from the confined space of the waters of the Canal, necessarily involve disastrous consequences; and danger appears to be recognized by the directors by the proposed regulation that every such tank steamer shall be accompanied by a tender capable of receiving a portion of her cargo under emergency.


3 That the rules which your memorialists understand are proposed to obviate the admitted danger involve principles of serious importance to the general navigation of the Canal, and are beyond the powers recognized and contemplated in the original concession granted to the Canal and recognized by the Great Powers.


4 That any regulation arbitrarily denying a right of passage to steamers built before a certain year is highly objectionable, and involves a right on the part of a company to interfere with the trade through the Canal in a manner inconsistent witth the privilege of the navigation, which has hitherto been impartially secured to all shipowners.


5  That any regulation limiting the draught of a particular class of steamer solely with regard to the cargoes which they carry is likewise in opposition to the principles and rules on which the navigation has been regulated and introduces a principle of distinction between vessels, which, once admitted, would put an end to the wise policy which has hitherto placed the vessels and owners of all nations on a common footing of equality.


6 That any regulation which asserts on the part of the Canal Company the right to fix tests and to distinguish between different classes of petroleum when carried in bulk, and to prohibit one class of petroleum and to exclude others, would be a direct interference with the free navigation of the Canal, and to open up serious issues in recognizing a power on the part of the company to to interfere with the carriage of cargoes generally, and goes beyond the powers granted by the original concession to the company, and would require submission to the Powers for ratification before it can become valid.


7 That the proposal for lightening such tank steamers by the use of a tender would not remove the dangers to the general traffic caused by collision, fire, or otherwise, and that no measure of precaution will be satisfactory to the ordinary traffic unless the tanks of the proposed steamers shall be completely and separately oil-tight, and so constructed and arranged that in the event of damage by collision, grounding, or otherwise, the bulk of oil could not escape into the waters of the Canal, and that the quantity of oil to be carried in any one tank shall be strictly limited.


8 That provision shall in any case be made whereby the owners of vessels or cargoes sustaining damage or loss by reason of any accident to such oil steamers shall be fully indemnified by them against such loss and damage.



For The English & American Shipping Company (Ltd), C T Bowring & Co

C Howard & Son

Pinkneys, Clare & Nye

A Edward Tyler, Dillon, Harrowing & Co

J Temperley & Co

E and E Arbie

Arthur Holland & Co

Fred Woods

H W Dillon

Tylor & Bright

Farrar, Groves & Co

Angier Bros

R Gordon & Co

Turnbull, Scott & Co

for Avis Steamships (Ltd), Gilbert Porteous, Manager

Turnbull, Martin & Co

The Eastern Steamship Company

J B Westray & Co

Thomas Skinner & Co

For the Temperley Steam Shipping Company (Ltd),

J Temperley & Co Managers

Gellatly, Hankey, Sewell & Co

For The China Shippers' Mutual Steam Navigation Company (Ltd),

John Potter, Managing Director.




Raymond Forward