Black Gold: Finding Material Potential in Oil Tankers

Each year, a large number of oil tankers wear out and the questions becomes, what to do with the materials? Considered toxic waste, many of the disused ships end up in developing countries where workers are paid minimal amounts to do the very dangerous work of breaking down steel hulls into scrap material for recycling. However, some innovators are looking to reuse these very powerful ships and their materials in a new and exciting way.

A Dutch designer called Chris Collaris, along with his partners Patrick van der Gronde, Ruben Esser and Sandra Bakker, have created a conceptual re-imagination of a tankers called ‘The Black Gold.’ The concept involves carving out the internal structure of an oil megatanker and transforming it into a public space incorporating uses ranging from retail to hotel to housing.

While the concept certainly looks very cool, there are however  major problems with such a use when it comes to cleaning the toxic waste off the tanker – a process that can cost upward of $1 million (USD). However, Collaris does not see this as a major obstacle. “The dismantling and cleaning of parts which will not be used in the ship anymore would be the biggest part during construction.” However, this is a process that would occur anyhow in the recycling of steel. “Why not stay close to the first initial purpose or structure where the steel has been used for in the first place. Recycling by reuse in the same object is much more environmentally friendly than recycling the steel for new,” Collaris argues. “A re-used tanker can be functional again for another 50 or more years,” he adds.

The main target for theses ships in in the Middle East, where oil tanker and the opportunity to create iconic designs referring to the oil shipping traditions of the region are in abundance.