Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

    December 17, 1976
    The S.S. Sansinena Tank Ship Explosion
    Los Angeles Harbor

Union oil's "Sansinena"

    The movie industry isn't the only outfit that can go super-colossal, gigantic, stupendous, etc., etc.  There's a real bang up ship building program going on around the old globe, to see who can build the biggest super-duper tanker.  As of the day that this was written, the Universe leader was the largest one in service, but a more duper super had been launched and was being outfitted in Japan by National Bulk Carriers, Inc., of New York.

    During World War 2, tankers capable of carrying more than 100,000 barrels were a dire necessity.  The "T-2" type was the result.  523 feet in length, with an 80 foot beam (width), and a 30 foot draft (depth below the water line when loaded), and a capacity of 135,000 barrels of oil, gasoline, water, or Chanel #5, these buckets were the semi-supers fifteen years ago, and still haul a big slug of the world's oil.  After all, a ship that's almost twice the length of a football field and tips the scales at 16,000 long tons, is not to be scorned.  Remember the Markay caper?  There was a hot T-2.

        A few years ago, newer tankers like the Andros Thunder and the Italia Martelli Fassio muscled into the far east oil binge.  These 25 to 30 thousand ton mechanical whales carry oil to both hemispheres, at an average of 250,000 barrels each trip.  Big as they are though, they are sorta in the sub-super class of today's rat race.

    About a week before Christmas 1958, Union Oil's new "Sansinena" tied up at berth 151, after having slipped into the harbor practically unnoticed in the costal mists (pea soup fog to us landlubbers).  With this tub, the designation "Super" begins to apply.  60,000 tons deadweight, compared to 16,000 for the T-2.  810 feet long, 104 foot beam, 42 foot draft, and a colossal 460,000 barrel capacity, she's a whopper, that's for sure.  The Sansinena had to unload a good portion of her cargo thru the offshore facility at Huntington Beach, to reduce her 42 foot draft to something around 30 feet, before she could safely enter Los Angeles Harbor.  That 460,000 barrels that she can carry, is 3 1/2 times the capacity of the old T-2's, and just about the amount of water that would be required to fill 900 backyard swimming pools, including the property taxes.  I only mention the taxes so that you won't forget to make the second installment.

    Inasmuch as the Sansinena is a super tanker, the "Universe Leader" will have to be classed as a "Super-duper Tanker."  There is a distinction between a 60,000 tonner and one in the 85,000 ton class, and the "Leader" is the latter.  This floating tank farm is 845 feet long, with a 120 foot beam, and a 45 foot draft, and can haul 630,000 barrels of etc., or etc.  Getting back to that football field comparison, this monstrosity is nearly 3 times as long.  In fact, if it were possible to set her down in the Coliseum, she would hit the cheap seat at both ends.  For safety's sake, next time buy the best, on the sides.

    Now that you have some idea for the size of a Super-duper, get set for the scoop on the newest, the "Super-duper-stuper Tanker."  The "Universe Apollo," recently launched in Japan, is 945 feet long, has a 135 foot beam, draws 50 feet, has a deadweight of 104,500 tons, and carries about 700,000 barrels.  This one would sorta hang over at both ends, if anyone were silly enough to put her in the Coliseum, so just don't you try.  Getting back to the swimming pools, this thirsty brute could drain about 1400 of them without belching.

    To clinch the deal, go to your favorite service station and have the attendant "fill'er up."  That $4.50 or five bucks that you lay on the line, pays for about one third of a standard 55 gallon barrel.  You, plus a few million other "fill'er uppers," are the persons responsible for the Super-dupers of today.  


This article appeared in the January 1959 issue of THE FIREMEN'S GRAPEVINE.

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