Our current fleet consists of eighteen shuttle tankers, which vessels are designed to transport crude oil and condensates from offshore oil field installations to onshore terminals and refineries. Our shuttle tankers are equipped with sophisticated loading and dynamic positioning systems that allow the vessels to load cargo safely and reliably from oil field installations, in harsh weather conditions and where there are strong currents.

Charter Coverage

Our Vessels

Shuttle Tanker Industry

Shuttle tankers are a distinct, specialized asset class serving a critical oil supply chain
infrastructure need in offshore Brazil and the North Sea
A shuttle tanker at sea
The development of shuttle tankers as a discrete industry segment reflects the evolving needs of the offshore energy sector
  • The use of shuttle tankers can be dated back to the development of the Statfjord field in the North Sea in 1979. Shuttle tankers were developed to provide consistent service to offshore oil platforms that require continuous offloading of oil in order to avoid costly production stoppages, even during storms and with waves up to 10 meters. The shuttle tankers’ ‘port’ was at that time a loading buoy, with the production platform (typically today an FPSO or Floating Production, Storage and Offloading unit) as the only neighbor.
  • KNOP's chairman, Trygve Seglem, was involved with the pioneering development of this form of oil transportation in the North Sea, and Knutsen won its first tender for two shuttle tankers in 1984. Since then, the business has grown organically and, by consistently satisfying the evolving requirements of both charterers and regulators, KNOT, and today with KNOP, has built an unparalleled reputation and expertise in conducting safe and reliable offshore loading operations.
  • As production platforms or FPSOs are increasingly located in deepwater areas prone to challenging weather and hydrological conditions, the operation of shuttle tankers requires high-specification vessel designs and equipment, highly specialized operational skills to maintain a tightly defined position when loading the oil, and very high maintenance standards. As the market leader, KNOP, with its Sponsor KNOT, is at the forefront of new developments and continued innovation in the industry.
Safety and environmental compliance: our top priority
  • Safety and environmental compliance are KNOP’s top operational priorities. Our vessels are operated and maintained in a manner intended to protect the safety and health of our employees, the general public, and the environment.
  • We actively manage the risks inherent in our business and are committed to eliminating incidents that threaten the safety and integrity of our vessels, such as groundings, fires, collisions, and petroleum spills. We strive to be best in class and are committed to minimizing emissions and playing our part in meeting our industry's ESG obligations.
  • We have established key performance indicators to facilitate regular monitoring of our operational performance, and we set targets on an annual basis to drive continuous improvement. We review performance indicators monthly to determine if remedial action is necessary to reach our targets. For more information please see our ESG page.
A shuttle tanker at sea
A diagram illustrating the area of safe operations for a shuttle tanker loading a cargo of oil at sea
Shuttle tankers have several important attributes and capabilities that differentiate them from conventional tankers
  • Shuttle tankers are specially designed, advanced tankers with sophisticated bow loading equipment and a Dynamic Positioning (DP2) system that allows the vessel to safely stay on location in high seas and harsh environments during loading. Transverse thrusters are fitted fore and aft to ensure this can be achieved.
  • Whereas shuttle tankers have the ability to operate in the conventional tanker market as a fall-back option or when the conventional market offers exceptionally strong returns, conventional tankers cannot compete for shuttle tanker business.
  • Shuttle tankers typically require a 50 - 100% higher investment cost as compared to a conventional tanker of the same size.
  • The shuttle tanker industry has historically not seen speculative vessel ordering, with each vessel built and specified in response to tenders with a typical initial charter duration of between 5 and 10 years.
  • The shuttle tanker industry has high barriers to entry, with vessels held to stricter standards, operations governed by higher regulations, and specialized crews required. A demonstrated track record of consistent performance at a high level is often a prerequisite for securing new business.
While serving a similar function, shuttle tankers differ from pipelines in a number of important ways
  • Shuttle tankers are a more economical alternative, relative to pipelines, generally requiring a lower initial investment, particularly as distance from shore-based terminals and depth of water increases.
  • As opposed to pipelines, which are large-scale construction projects spanning between fixed locations, shuttle tankers are flexible, typically enabling crude oil to be loaded from and delivered to a range of locations based upon market conditions or the customer’s own needs or trading preferences, while requiring no construction, installation, or removal of capital intensive, fixed sub-sea infrastructure.
  • Shuttle tankers become more environmentally friendly as existing vessels are equipped with new technology, new vessels enter the market, and older vessels age out of the global fleet, in line with the shipping industry’s ESG commitments.
A diagram illustrating the similar function of Shuttle Tankers or Pipelines in transferring crude oil from an offshore oil field installation to an oil refinery or terminal on shore.
A shuttle tanker at sea
The majority of shuttle tankers operate in two geographies
  • Offshore Brazil
    Primary Characteristics:
    • Very cost competitive offshore oil production
    • Relatively calmer environment but with strong currents
    • High oil production growth expected
    • Bareboat Charter (BBC) or Time Charter (TC) contracts are typical
  • North Sea / Barents Sea (UK & Norway)
    Primary Characteristics:
    • Cost competitive, stable and long-established offshore oil production
    • Harsh environment requiring high-specification vessels
    • Oil production growth expected
    • Contract of Affreightment (COA) or Time Charter (TC) contracts are typical
Shuttle tankers generally operate under one of four different types of contract, with KNOP principally operating a combination of time charters and bareboat charters
  • A time charter (TC) contract is the hiring of a vessel for a specific period where the owner supplies the vessel and crew and the charterer pays for all fuel, port charges, commissions, and a daily hire rate to the owner. Under a time charter contract and within the parameters of safety and the law, the charterer generally has full operational control of the vessel during the time charter period. Typically the owner pays for vessel insurance. TC contracts are typical for shuttle tankers operating in Brazil.
  • A bareboat charter (BBC) is the hiring of a vessel for a specific period whereby no crew or technical maintenance is provided by the owner. The charterer obtains possession and full control of the vessel along with legal and fiscal responsibility and pays all operating expenses including fuel, crew, port expenses and insurance. BBC contracts are less common in the shuttle tanker market but are used in both Brazil and the North Sea.
  • Under a contract of affreightment (COA), the shipowner typically undertakes to carry a specified number of cargoes within a specified period, often on a specified route and in return for a lump-sum or agreed rate per voyage. The frequency of cargoes may require more than one ship and the owner may have the ability to substitute similar ships. COA’s are typical for shuttle tankers operating in the North Sea and Norwegian sector.
  • A voyage charter (VC) is the hiring of a vessel and crew for a voyage between one or more load ports and one or more discharge ports. The charterer may pay the vessel owner on a lump-sum basis and the owner typically pays port costs, fuel costs and crew costs. A voyage charter often specifies a period, known as laytime, for loading and unloading the cargo. If laytime is exceeded, the charterer will pay demurrage to the owner, or if laytime is saved, the owner will pay dispatch to the charterer. These contracts are not often used in the shuttle tanker market today.
A shuttle tanker at sea