World's Biggest Traffic Jam May Be at Sea

125 oil-carrying supertankers are currently stuck in traffic
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2016 4:57 PM CDT
World's Biggest Traffic Jam May Be at Sea
An oil tanker off the coast of Texas in 2015.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Current oil markets have turned the ocean into a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour for supertankers, Reuters reports. Approximately 125 supertankers carrying $7.5 billion worth of oil are currently anchored at sea while waiting in line at ports around the world. If put end-to-end, they would stretch for 25 miles. The worst waits are in the Middle East, where ports can't keep up with rising oil production, and Asia, where ports can't handle the increased demand for cheap oil. According to CNN, there were three times the normal amount of supertankers floating off the Gulf Coast back in November in what one expert called a "supertanker traffic jam."

One captain tells Reuters he's likely to be anchored at sea for more than three weeks before he can finally dock, giving his crew a lot of time to kill. "We have a piano, drums, crew who play guitar—they are not professional, but they are becoming good," he says. "We have more than 1,000 DVDs so there is no need to watch the same one 20 times." But not all crews are so lucky. "We had no regular internet ... only an old TV with a couple of old DVD movies," one sailor says. "The food is terrible, and while waiting to offload we did pretty hard maintenance work." It gets worse. According to a marine consultant: "A lot of ships are now dry, so there's no alcohol on board." While supertankers still get paid to sit at sea, the Wall Street Journal reports rates could soon take a hit with oil futures looking bleak and an influx of new tankers looming later this year. (More oil stories.)

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