Tankers: A Special Issue
In a strict sense, Aramco's world is confined to the eastern part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it is here, on a small section of the huge Arabian Peninsula, that Aramco—the Arabian American Oil Company—performs the three functions for which it exists—finding petroleum, bringing it out of the ground and delivering it in crude or refined form to customers who will market it around the globe.
Across the 125,000 square miles of desert, gravel plains and salty water that make up its concession area, Aramco sends oil explorers seeking geological evidence that there may be petroleum in the earth where they are looking. If their knowledge, experience and complex instruments produce an affirmative answer, Aramco's drilling teams follow. If their drilling bits confirm the existence of oil in commercial quantities, planning begins for developing the field. Eventually the field is linked by pipelines to company facilities for handling the crude oil found there. Some will go to the company's refinery at Ras Tanura to be turned into products for use in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Most, however, will be shipped by pipeline to points where customers can pick it up and transport it to destinations in the Far East, Europe and America.
One such terminal point is at Ras Tanura, on the Arabian Gulf, where the oil is delivered to two T-piers and a brand-new sea island offshore. Another is at Qaisumah, near the Saudi Arabia-Iraq-Neutral Zone border, where the Trans-Arabian Pipe Line Company's first pump station sends Aramco's crude oil into a large-diameter pipeline crossing northern Saudi Arabia and ending at Sidon, Lebanon, on the Mediterranean Sea. A third is on the shore near al-Khobar, where twin pipelines dip into the Arabian Gulf and come out 20 miles to the east on Bahrain Island, bringing oil to the refinery there. At these three points Aramco's job ends and as the oil emerges from pipelines and is delivered aboard vessels its owners. Standard Oil Company of California, Standard Oil Company (N.J.), Texaco Inc. and the Mobil Oil Corporation, with their ready-made transportation and marketing facilities, take over.
But if Aramco's operations stop at the water's edge or at a remote desert pump station, the oil does not. The oil moves on. Aboard tankers, supertankers, mammoth tankers and, now, gigantic tankers the oil travels to distant terminals and refineries and then into tank cars and barges and pipelines and tank farms all over the world, eventually to supply the kind of efficient energy needed in modern life everywhere.
In this larger sense, then, Aramco's world knows no boundaries. In this sense the world of finding and producing oil is joined to the world of shipping and selling it.
And the link between these two worlds, the bridge, so to speak, between source and buyer, the span between petroleum's original location and its ultimate user, is the oil tanker—the huge, lumbering, ubiquitous and totally indispensable oil tanker—to which this issue of Aramco World is, with considerable affection, hereby dedicated.
— THE EDITORS —