AFRA stands for Average Freight Rate Assessment. As the name suggests, Aframax are medium-sized oil tankers with a dead weight tonnage (DWT) between 80,000 and 119,999. Though relatively small in size in comparison to VLCC and ULCC, Aframax tankers have a capacity to carry up to 120,000 metric tonnes of crude oil. They are just ideal for short to medium-haul oil trades, and are primarily used in regions of lower crude production, or the areas that lack large ports to accommodate giant oil carriers. AFRA system was created in 1954 by Shell Oil to standardize contract terms.
Though relatively smaller than Very Large Crude Containers (VLCC) and the Ultra Large Crude Containers (ULCC), the tanker has a cargo carrying capacity between 70,000 and 100,000 metric tonnes. The average cargo carrying capacity of Aframax is approximately 750,000 barrels.
Due to their favorable size, Aframax tankers can serve most ports in the world. These vessels serve regions which do not have very large ports or offshore oil terminals to accommodate very large crude carriers and ultra large crude carriers. Aframax tankers are just perfect for short to medium haul crude oil transportation.
Aframax tankers are extensively used in areas of lower crude oil production such as in Non-OPEC countries which lack large harbors and canals to accommodate VLCC and ULCC class of tankers. Their main areas of operations include South American oil cargo exports to the US Gulf region through the Caribbean, North African exports to Southern Europe through Mediterranean, exports from former Soviet Union Republics to Northern Europe through the Black Sea and the North Sea, and South East Asian exports to the Far East. As Aframax vessels are mainly used in transporting crude oil, they are sometimes called ‘dirty tankers’.
Teekay Corporation of Canada operates a total of 67 Aframax ships, which makes it the owner of the largest fleet of Aframax tankers in the world.