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Environment / Sustainability

Could cities turn oil tankers into shopping centres?

Oil tankers are really, really big. That means that, when they’re decommissioned, it’s not always clear what should be done with them.

One common solution is to scrap them in shipyards – but this puts workers at risk from the large, decaying structure and the oil and chemicals still coating its insides. It’s time consuming, and the only real benefit is the small amount owners can make from selling off scrap metal. 


So four Dutch designers have come forward with a solution. As oil tankers come out of use – something that will happen with increasing regularity as we wean our economies off fossil fuels – the quartet suggest that we don’t rip them apart at all. Instead, the tankers’ massive structures could be used to house large public spaces and buildings. 

The project, which they’ve named “Black Gold”, is a collection of conceptual drawings showing tankers’ holds used as public spaces, with shops or housing installed above. The tanker’s deck could then be used as a terrace or garden. 

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The tanker would stay partly in the sea, as they’re so large and unwieldy. A roadway would then be built to connect the ship to the mainland, like so:

Here’s a cross section of a tanker with a terrace on top, and retail units inside:

Here it is from above: 

This is the shopping centre inside: 

The idea’s just a concept so far, and obviously there’d be a few things to work out before any such renovation could go ahead: how to ensure that all the nasty oil and chemicals are successfully cleared out, for example. It remains to be seen whether the industry sees this as a better solution than getting workers to tear apart the ships by hand

Images: Chris Collaris, Ruben Esser, Sander Bakker and Patrick Van Der Gronde. 
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