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China’s Critical Sea Lines of Communication.png
Malaccamax is defined by the Strait of Malacca, Malaccamax tankers can carry oil from the Persian Gulf to China.
General characteristics
Tonnage: 300,000 DWT
Length: 333 m (1,093 ft)
Beam: 60 m (197 ft)
Draft: 20.5 m (67 ft)

Malaccamax is a naval architecture term for the largest size of ship capable of fitting through the 25-metre-deep (82 ft) Strait of Malacca. Bulk carriers and supertankers have been built to this size, and the term is chosen for very large crude carriers (VLCC). They can transport oil from Arabia to China.[1] A typical Malaccamax tanker can have a maximum length of 333 m (1,093 ft), beam of 60 m (197 ft), draught of 20.5 m (67.3 ft), and tonnage of 300,000 DWT.[2]

Similar terms Panamax, Suezmax and Seawaymax are used for the largest ships capable of fitting through the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal and Saint Lawrence Seaway, respectively. Aframax tankers are those with a deadweight tonnage of 80,000 to 120,000.


Although Malaccamax vessels are broadly categorised as VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers), these vessels bear the name ‘Malaccamax’ denoting the specific purpose of their construction and extensive areas of operation. A Malaccamax vessel is custom-built to allow easy passage through the channel of the Strait of Malacca, an important navigable channel situated between the South-east Asian countries of Indonesia and Malaysia. The need for Malaccamax ships arose mainly on account of the limitations imposed by maritime authorities with respect to the drafts of vessels plying in this area. As per these limitations, only vessels with a maximum draft of about 25 metres are allowed passage through the maritime channel, thus providing a unique initiative to shipbuilding conglomerates to come up with a suitably justified type of vessel.

Based on the aforementioned stipulations, the very first structural paradigm of the Malaccamax ship had the following specifications:

  1. Length of around 470 metres with a beam of about 60 metres
  2. Operational draft of about 20 metres with a TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) capacitance of about 18,000
  3. Operational speeds touching up to 24 knots

However, several modifications were made to these original structural specifications.

The modifications to the ship’s size and various other technicalities was attempted as a way of ensuring that these specialised Malaccamax vessels could easily pass through several other major water navigable channels whilst alongside gaining entry into more number of harbour facilities across the world.

Based on these aspects put forward, the Malaccamax vessels that were officially put into operation had the following technical specifications:

  1. Length of about 400 metres with a beam of around 59 metres
  2. Operational draft of about 14.5 metres with a TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) capacitance of about 18,000
  3. Operational speeds touching up to a maximum of 19 knots


Some Chinamax and most Capesize and very large crude carriers cannot pass this strait. Ships such as Suezmax and New Panamax can pass. Any post-Malaccamax ship would need to use even longer alternate routes because traditional seaways such as the Sunda Strait, between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra would become too shallow for large ships. Other routes would therefore be required:[3]

Artificially excavated new routes might also be a possibility:

  • deepening the Strait of Malacca, specifically at its minimum depth in the Singapore Strait,
  • the proposed Kra Canal, which however would take much more excavation.

See also[edit]


  1. "Malacca-max Oil Tanker Delivered" (Press release). NKK Corporation. September 2002. 
  2. Fukai, Takashi; Kuma, Yasumitsu; Tabira, Makoto. "Development of Malaccamax Very Large Crude-oil Carriers" (PDF). Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Technical Review. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  3. Pleistocene Sea Level Maps: Southeast Asia and Sundaland

External links[edit]