Health risks associated with tanker ships

Does anyone have information or links to information concerning past and present health risks associated with working on tanker vessels, mainly crude oil and refined (gasoline, diesel)

Just try not to inhale gasoline and try not to let any product get on your skin! Haha!

Seriously though, tankers are all closed systems. There is more worry about painting and chipping than anything else!

Side note: I’m sure you already know, but to sail on a U.S. Flagged tanker, you’ll need your PIC - Ship endorsement.

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Hydrogen sulfide is the first danger that comes to mind associated with crude oil. Benzene has its own dangers.You can Google the health impacts. “Health risk” is a vague question. You can say a real health risk when it comes to tankers is tank cleaning. Google “confined spaces”.

I was a bit vague, I’m new to the merchant side of the sailing world and I’m trying to get s well informed as I can before making decisions.
I know that a lot of older sailors that had made a career out of being tanker men now have cancer of one sort of another, which is concerning.
I’ve been told that with the new closed systems that those dangers are mostly gone, on crude and product vessels at least.
I’ve done a bunch of online searches for information but everything that I can find concerning the health risks (not safety) are studies that are either out dated or were conducted on sailors that have been on tankers since the Vietnam era.
I’m thinking about making Houston my the place I ship from and since tankers seem to be easier to get on (as a B book) than container ships, I just want to be a well informed about what I’m getting myself into as possible.
I want to save for retirement and actually make it there somewhat healthy.

Times and methods of operation have changed considerably from the days of standing over open ullage hatches while loading & discharging. In the old days chemical tankers were perhaps the worse.


The old days of open gauging tanks while smoking cigs are gone. Like everyone else stated, with closed systems you don’t get much vapor on deck. The occasional leak here or there or when you’re hooking up arms/hoses but respirators have come a long way for this.

PS: don’t drink the stuff.

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Had an instructor at Texas A&M who was on a tanker, think it was benzene, it really screwed up his health. He instructed the stability classes. Nice guy, hope he is still around

That’s correct.

Biggest health hazard now is drinking too much coffee or slip/trip/fall trying to acknowledge BNWAS alarm.


Following up on this old thread, are closed systems also protecting tankermen that do barge work or is this still an issue? I tried to research this but only found a bunch of law firms looking for possible litigants for the benzene-cancer connection.