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Ocean-going chemical tankers generally range from 5,000 metric tons deadweight (DWT) to 40,000 DWT in size, which is considerably smaller than the average size of other tanker types due to the specialised nature of their cargoes and the size restrictions of the port terminals where they call to load and discharge.
Chemical tankers normally have a series of separate cargo tanks which are either coated with specialised coatings such as phenolic epoxy or zinc paint, or made from stainless steel. The coating or cargo tank material determines what types of cargo a particular tank can carry: stainless steel tanks are required for aggressive acid cargoes such as sulfuric and phosphoric acid, while 'easier' cargoes - e.g. vegetable oil - can be carried in epoxy coated tanks.
Chemical tankers often have a system for tank heating in order to maintain the viscosity of certain cargoes - typically this system consists of a boiler which pumps pressurized steam through so-called 'heating coils' - stainless steel pipes - in the cargo tanks, thus transferring heat into the cargo which circulates in the tank by convection. Many modern chemical tankers feature double hull construction and have one tank for each pump with separate piping, which means that each tank can load a separate cargo without any mixing. Tank cleaning after discharging cargo is a very important aspect of chemical tanker operations, because tanks which are not properly cleaned of all cargo residue can adversely affect the purity of the next cargo loaded. Before tanks are cleaned, it is very important that they are properly ventilated and checked to be free of potentially explosive gases.
Most new chemical tankers are built by shipbuilders in Japan, Korea or China, with other builders in Turkey, Italy, Germany and Poland.
The chemical tanker market is dominated by several major chemical tanker operators, including Stolt-Nielsen, Odfjell, Eitzen Chemical, Clipper Tankers and Berlian Laju Tanker. Charterers - the end users of the ships -include oil majors and specialist chemical companies.
| Chemical tankers]]