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Types of Cargo Ships

When it comes to seafreight cargo, there are a variety of cargo ships and modes of shipping based on the cargoes available..

Container Vessels – is currently the most common mode of transport used for carrying 20′, 40′ and 45′ containers.. More details on size/type and usage of containers will follow in another article.. These come in various capacities ranging from about 85 teus (twenty equivalent units) to 15,000+ teus.. The biggest currently being the Emma Maersk..

Bulk Vessels – Used for the carriage of bulk commodities like wheat, sulphur, iron ore, coal etc etc..

Breakbulk Vessels – Used for the carriage of various kinds of cargoes – bagged cargo (cement, sugar etc), palletised cargo (paint, chemicals etc), timber etc etc

Ro-Ro Vessels – Used for the carriage of wheeled cargo like cars, buses, trucks, exacavators etc etc.. Where the option is available, these vsls can also carry some project cargoes as long as these are loaded on mafi trailers or any other wheeled modes.. Further classified as PCC (Pure Car Carriers) & PCTC (Pure Car & Truck Carriers) the purpose of which are obvious from the names..

Multi-purpose Vessels – Used for the carriage of a combination of above cargoes.. Very versatile, popular and useful vessels specially along certain routes which require self-geared vessels and do not have shore handling facilities..

Tanker Vessels – Used for the carriage of various liquid cargoes like oil, chemicals etc..

Crude Carriers – Used for the carriage of (you guessed it) crude oil – further classified as  VLCC (Very large Crude Carriers) and ULCC (Ultra large Crude Carriers)

LNG Carriers – Used for the carriage of Liquified Natural Gas..

Reefer Vessel – Used for the carriage of frozen cargoes or temperature controlled cargoes like fruits, meat, fish etc..

Cargo ships are classified under different categories based on their size, dimension and weight..

Most common classifications (at the time of this post) are :

  • Handy size, ships weighing between 28,000-40,000 DWT
  • Handymax, ships weighing between 40,000-50,000 DWT
  • Panamax, the largest size of ship which can pass through the Panama Canal – DWT of between 60,000 to 80,000 tons
  • Aframax, generally tankers weighing between 75,000 and 115,000 DWT
  • Suezmax, the largest size of ship which can pass through the Suez Canal – DWT of around 150,000 tons
  • Malaccamax, the largest size of ship which can navigate through the Malacca Straits – would have a DWT of ideally between 280000 to 300,000 tons in terms of container ships
  • Capesize, vessels larger than Panamax and Suezmax, which cannot pass through either the Panama Canal or Suez Canal and has to pass through the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn – above 150,000 long tons in DWT
  • VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier), supertankers between 150,000 and 320,000 DWT
  • ULCC (Ultra Large Crude Carrier), supertankers between 320,000 and 550,000 DWT
  • Seawaymax, the largest size of ship that can fit through the canal locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway – has a DWT of between 10,000 to 60,000 tons
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