Types of Vessels

Commercial vessels represent a significant portion of all international trade. Also known as merchant ships, these ships come in all shapes and sizes, depending on what they transport. The different types of vessels are specially designed to optimize transport of their specific type of cargo, including how the cargo is loaded and unloaded.

Nautical terms are a specialized language. A basic description of the most commonly used terms for features of a vessel can be helpful. For orientation purposes, the front of a ship is the bow and the back is the stern. When facing the front of the ship, the right side is starboard, and the left is the port. Merchant vessels encompasses those in active commercial transportation. These vary in size and design based on their purpose and can range from 20 to over 1,000 feet long.

General Cargo Vessels

General cargo ships have a series of compartments, referred to as holds, for cargo. Each hold is equipped with rigging for winches to load and unload the cargo. Typically, the cargo is shipped in protective packaging and loaded onto wooden pallets or is otherwise evenly stacked. In some cases, general cargo vessels have refrigerated compartments for transport of perishable cargo. An average general cargo vessel is about 500 feet long.

A bulk carrier is used to transport unpackaged cargo. Examples include coal, ores, grains, wood chips, and the like. Rather than use overhead rigging, the cargo is usually poured down into the holds. If the carrier is used for different types of cargo, it is necessary for crew to clean the holds to prevent contamination. Average bulk cargo vessels are around 800 feet long.

Container ships are used to transport cargo stored in large rectangular steel containers. These come in standard sizes that are eight feet wide and eight feet tall. The length can vary from 20 to 40 feet. Container ships use cranes to move containers from trucks to the cargo hold. A port must be equipped with container terminals with cranes to accommodate these vessels.

Specialized Vessels

A tanker is generally used to transport liquid or gas. The most common tankers are used to transport oil and are equipped with piping directly to load and unload the oil. Tankers come in a range of sizes with the largest being a quarter mile long and wider than a football field. These vessels are so large that they cannot be accommodated in most ports. The cargo is loaded and off-loaded at offshore pumping stations.

Auto carrier vessels are designed like parking garages and can hold from 2,000 to 4,000 vehicles. They are equipped with ramps to enable vehicles to be driven on and off the vessel. The average auto carrier vessel is about 600 feet long. Fishing vessels are specialized to capture and/or process fish. Fishing boats are about 90 feet long and are equipped with refrigerated holds to preserve the freshness of the catch. Processing ships have a factory deck where fish are cleaned, filleted, and packaged on board.

Passenger ships are typically cruise ships designed for tourism. They are equipped with sleeping compartments for passengers, as well as restaurants, recreational spaces, and crew quarters. These vary in size with the largest accommodating more than 5,000 passengers.

Cape May Maritime Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Advocate for Maritime Workers

If you were injured at sea or have concerns pertaining to maritime law, contact the Cape May maritime lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. We will review your case and address any questions you may have. Call us at 888-999-1962 or submit an online form to set up a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cape May and Wildwood.