Everything you need to know about cargo and container ships (2023)

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a cargo ship and a container ship? Have you always wanted to know what a cargo ship is and if there are different types of cargo and container ships? You are in the right place!

To answer the first question, the difference between a cargo ship and a container ship is that a container ship is a type of cargo ship. Both carry cargo - or cargo - albeit in slightly different ways.

In this article we take a closer look at container and cargo ships - and the many different variants and classifications that fall into these categories.

Everything you need to know about cargo and container ships (1)

By the way, this is the first of a series of deep divesdifferent types of boats, yachts, ships and watercraft, so don't forget to check out some of our other articles on other merchant marine vessels, as well as non-commercial boats and watercraft.

Ever wanted to know what aBeer tanks, acrane ship, agas transport ship, adredge, abulk carrierlike a panamax or oneSupramax-Schiff, alightship, aAutotransporteror aRoRo-Schiffdoes? This is the place to find out! But now let's take a look at...

Everything you need to know about cargo and container ships

Cargo and container ships are a large part of the merchant marine (or merchant marine). They are used for transporting various goods, products and materials by sea from one port to another. It's probably not too surprising that the shipping industry is responsible for the transportation of90% of world trade.

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That is, there is aIncredible amount of cargo shipscross the oceans at any given time.

(By the way, container ships and cargo ships are also known as cargo ships or freighters. Cargo, of course, is another word for cargo.)

(Video) Cargo / Container Ship Travel Guide: Everything you need to know

So what kind of cargo or cargo do these ships carry? How about anything and everything?!

Because of the sheer volume of products and materials that cargo ships need to move from A to B, ships are classified into categories depending on the type of cargo.

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Different types of cargo ships

Generally speaking, cargo ships can be classified into eight different types depending on the cargo they transport. These are:

  • cargo ships:Transport goods such as clothing, machinery, food, furniture and other cargo that can be packed.
  • multipurpose vessels: Transport a variety of different types of cargo, both dry and liquid in nature.
  • bulk carrier:Transport loose, unpackaged goods such as coal, cement, sand and grain etc.
  • Tankers (including oil tankers andchemical tanker): Carry oil, chemicals, petroleum and gas.
  • Containerschiffe: Also carry packaged goods like cargo ships, but the difference is that the cargo is stored in shipping containers.
  • reefer ships: Are refrigerated, so carry perishables like meat and fish, dairy, and fruits and vegetables.
  • RoRo ships: Short for roll-on/roll-off, ro-ro ships carry rolling cargo – cars, vans, trucks, trailers, etc. – which can then, you guessed it, be rolled onto and off a ship.
  • feeder ships: These are small to medium-sized container ships that “feed” larger ships with containers. They typically run from a port to a central hub or container terminal, delivering containers to be picked up by another ship.
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We'll take a closer look at these ships in some of our other articles.

Well, just to break things down a little more, cargo ships can also be broken down into two other categories: tramp ships and liners. What does that mean? Continue reading.

What is the difference between a tramp ship and a liner?

Cargo ships, including those mentioned abovefeeder ships, container ships, tankers, etc. also fall under the category of tramp ships or liners. The difference between them is:

A cargo ship charges a tariff and has to follow a pre-planned route and fixed port rotation. These ports and arrival date will be published and respected unless unforeseen circumstances such as delays at a previous port or adverse weather conditions prevent this.

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tramp ships:
A tramp ship or hitchhiker does not follow a pre-established schedule but is instead chartered by various users on a contract basis. Smaller shipping companies with smaller fleets mainly use tramp ships, which are often available at short notice.

(Video) How Container Ships Work

Do cargo and container ships carry passengers?

This question comes up fairly frequently on travel and backpacker forums. Travelers looking for a cheaper alternative to cruising who don't want to fly who want the idea of ​​"slow travel'and those who feel like seeing the world from a different perspective are sometimes drawn to the idea of ​​crossing the oceanby container or cargo ship. (Often much to the confusion of those actually working in seafaring trades!)

Be aware that this is not a luxurious approach to ocean passages - aCruise shipit is not. It's not even oneferry! Expect little to no entertainment other than a chat and maybe a game of cards with the crew, who are on their own time. Instead, it's about experiencing something different, taking time to read, stargaze, and admire Mother Nature - keep in mind that many passages will take at least a couple of weeks to complete.

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However, you should get a comfortable and often spacious cabin, as well as three meals a day, all prepared by theship's cookin the galley.

You'll need to do a little research and find a travel agency that specializes in cargo ships carrying passengers and it's not as easy as boarding a flight, but if you're looking for a unique experience, container ships travel like a passenger could be for you.

Container ships under the magnifying glass

Since a container ship is what many people think of when it comes to ocean transport of cargo, we will take a closer look at these ships.

Everything you need to know about cargo and container ships (7)

Container ships can carry huge amounts of cargo, all of which are packed into shipping containers and then loaded on board the ship. The dimensions of containers are standardized so that they can be easily and efficiently transferred to another means of transport, such as a freight train, for onward transport.

The method of transporting goods by container - akacontainerization- was used primarily in the form of rail and road containers in the early 20th century, but only came into its own in the 1950s and 60s when ships specially built to accommodate sea containers became the norm.

How is cargo loaded onto cargo and container ships?

Shipping containers were originally loaded aboard ships via a system of cranes and ramps and although cranes still play a large role in loading and unloading containers, transshipment systems and lashings are now also used to ensure containers are safe and secure efficiently moved and secured.

(Video) How Container Shipping Works?

Everything you need to know about cargo and container ships (8)

We have already mentioned RoRo (Roll-on / Roll-off) vessels. Loading and unloading cargo on these ships is a bit different - due to the rolling aspect! As you can imagine, no cranes are needed here as the cargo rolls (cars, trailers, trucks, etc.) so it can be easily wheeled onto and off the ship.

However, there are a few variations on this theme. RoCon ships are a combination of RoRo ships and container ships, i. H. they transport rolling cargo, but also sea containers. On these ships there is usually a separate hold for the containers, or they can be loaded on deck.

Eventually, meet the Lo-Lo Ship, aka the Lift on / Lift Off Ship. These are container ships that use their own crane instead of the port's container crane (also called ship-to-shore crane or container handling bridge crane). This allows them to conduct cargo operations without port support.

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Most container ships do not have their own cranes, although smaller ships handling smaller volumes of cargo may have a cargo crane on board. Ships with their own cranes are referred to as geared container ships, ships without cranes as gearless container ships.

How much cargo can container ships transport?

Container ships have evolved quite dramatically over the years. For example, an early container ship built in 1956 could carry a cargo of 24 containers: 4 containers high and 6 across. That's 500 - 800 TEU.

Wait! What is a TEU?!

TEU stands for Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit. It is a measure of volume in units of twenty foot long shipping containers. A 20-foot container therefore corresponds to a TEU.

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By 1970, full cell container ships had begun plying their trade. Cell ships are container ships specifically designed to stack sea containers, with vertical bracing at the four corners for added stability and efficiency. These ships now also carried containers below deck and could transport around 1,000 - 2,500 TEU.

(Video) How are Containers Loaded? | Cargo Operations on Container Ship

The Panamax and Panamax Max ships took things to another level in the 1980s, carrying 3,000 - 3,400 TEU and 3,400 - 4,500 TEU respectively. As the name suggests, the Panamax ships were so named because they were specifically built to fit through the Panama Canal.

From the late 1980s to the 2000s, post-Panamax vessels with storage volumes of up to 8,500 TEU caused a stir. In 2014, the New Panamax (sometimes also called Neo Panamax) followed with 12,500 TEU.

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Today, a far cry from the 500 TEU of the 1950s, the oceans are home to even larger classes of ships. Board the VLCS (Very Large Container Ship), ULCS (Ultra Large Container Ship) and the MGX-24 (Megamax 24). The latter are so named because of their 24 container bays, 24 rows of decks and 24 container stack (12 containers in the hold and 12 on deck above). These floating giants have a TEU of up to 25,000.

Everything you need to know about cargo ships: Conclusion

Hopefully this has answered just a few of your questions about cargo and container ships. Believe it or not, there's a lot more to know!

Don't forget to read more of our articles on different types of ships - we cover it allicebreaker shipstoheavy lift vesselstofishing vesselsto tankers toofire boatsand more.

But now let's move on to the next ship in our series. We briefly looked at them earlier in this article, but now it's time to take a closer look at everything you need to know about RoRo vessels.

Read the previous post in this series:

Read the next post in this series: Everything you need to know about RoRo ships

(Video) Everything You Need to Know About Freight Shipping


What are the 5 types of cargo? ›

There are five main cargo types:
  • Containers. This is the cargo that most laymen are familiar with. ...
  • Dry Bulk Cargo. Next, we have dry bulk cargo which is usually homogenous, in large quantities, and unpacked. ...
  • Liquid Bulk Cargo. ...
  • Break Bulk. ...
  • Roll-On Roll-Off. ...
  • Getting Freight Management Services.

What are 5 types of container ships? ›

Container ships are categorised into seven major categories, depending on their size. These include Small feeder ships, feeder ships, feeder max, Panamax, Post-Panamax, New Panamax and Ultra Large.

What is the difference between a cargo ship and a container ship? ›

General cargo vessels carry packaged items like chemicals, foods, furniture, machinery, motor- and military vehicles, footwear, garments, etc. Container ships (sometimes spelled containerships) are cargo ships that carry all of their load in truck-size intermodal containers, in a technique called containerization.

What are 3 methods of shipping? ›

Choosing a shipping method depends on a variety of factors, most importantly weight, class, and destination.
  • Air. A plane can usually ship anything that can be shipped LTL. ...
  • Train. While it's often considered dated, train or rail shipping is still a viable and economical way to ship freight. ...
  • Truckload. ...
  • LTL. ...
  • Ocean.

What are the 4 main types of cargo carried by air? ›

Types of Air Cargo Back
  • Temperature Controlled.
  • Hazardous Material/Dangerous Goods.
  • Heavy weight and over dimensional freight.
  • Live Animals.
  • High Value/Fragile Items.
  • Human Remains/Organs/Tissue Samples.

What does MV stand for in ships? ›

motor ship (MS) or motor vessel (MV): A ship propelled by internal-combustion engines.

What is 40 ft container called? ›

Now, the volume of cargo and the capacity on a vessel are often measured in TEU. At the same time 40ft containers, which are the same as two TEUs, are known as the Forty-foot Equivalent Unit. Abbreviated FEU.

What are 4 types of containers? ›

The 4 Most Common Types of Shipping Containers
  • Dry Storage Container. Dry storage containers are among the most common shipping containers on the market. ...
  • Flat Rack Container. Flat racks are another common type of shipping container. ...
  • Refrigerated ISO Containers. ...
  • Special Purpose Containers.
13 Jun 2022

What does TEU stand for? ›

TEU is an acronym used in logistics, which means 'Twenty Equipment Unit' or in other terms a '20-foot container'. TEU is the smallest equipment used to transport goods with Twill.

How many 40ft containers fit on a cargo ship? ›

They have 24 bays and carry between 18,000 and 21,000 TEUs or 9,000 to 10,500 forty-foot containers. The TEUs are a unit that indicates the number of containers the ships can carry.

What is cargo container called? ›

Shipping Containers are known by many different names: conex, cargo container, sea van, dry box, freight containers, etc. In the container industry, they are referred to as ISO Containers or Intermodal Containers.

What are the 4 stages of shipping? ›

The shipping cycle is an economic cycle that helps to identify the effects of changes in supply and demand on freight rates as well as on shipping assets, in other words the ships themselves. The four stages are rock-bottom (also known as trough), recovery, peak and last but not least, collapse.

What is CIF term? ›

Cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) is an international shipping term that describes the seller's responsibility for the cost of shipping, freight charges, and insuring the cargo being shipped via ocean or waterway.

What is difference between shipment and cargo? ›

Cargo is always a noun that refers to goods or items that are being transported. On the other hand, shipment is both a noun as well as verb. When used as a noun, it is synonymous with cargo as it then refers to the goods being moved around while when used as a verb, it refers to the actual act of transportation.

What is Type A and Type B ship? ›

(a) is designed to carry only liquid cargoes in bulk; (b) has a high integrity of the exposed deck with only small access openings to cargo compartments, closed by watertight gasketed covers of steel or equivalent material, and; (c) has a low permeability of loaded cargo compartments.

What kind of fuel do container ships use? ›

Nearly all cargo ships use diesel combustion engines to turn the propellers, plus diesel generators that power onboard lighting systems and communications equipment. Many vessels still burn heavy bunker fuel, a viscous, carbon-intensive petroleum product that's left from the crude oil refining process.

What are the 18 different freight classes? ›

What are the 18 different types of freight class?
Class NameNotes, Examples
Class 92.5Computers, monitors, refrigerators
Class 100boat covers, car covers, canvas, wine cases, caskets
Class 110cabinets, framed artwork, table saw
Class 125Small Household appliances
14 more rows

What are the four 4 most common freight documents? ›

The five most common documents for international shipping you should be aware of are bill of lading, purchase order, air waybill, and export packaging list.

What are the 7 types of transportation? ›

The different modes of transport are air, water, and land transport, which includes rails or railways, road and off-road transport. Other modes also exist, including pipelines, cable transport, and space transport.

What is not allowed in air cargo? ›

Flammable materials

This includes all flammable liquids, such as fuels, paints, oils, and the such. But also any equipment that has ever contained fuel. You cannot transport those materials in airplanes. Due to strict regulations in air traffic, you cannot bring them as personal baggage in a plane either.

What is a list of cargo called? ›

A cargo list is a list of goods that are onboard a vessel scheduled to arrive at a port. On arrival, the list is given to the customs authority of the country to show the detailed of the number of goods to be unloaded at the port.

What is the difference between air cargo and sea cargo? ›

Air freight is faster than ocean shipping, hands down. Ocean shipments can sometimes take weeks to arrive. Air freight can reach its destination in only a day or two. While ships are getting faster and ocean shipping routes are being constantly optimized, there is still no beating the speed of air freight.

What does SS mean in ship? ›

SS often stood for "steamship," as steam what made these vessels operate. It was also a clear indicator that a boat differed from the slower performing means of propulsion, such as sailing and rowing power.

What is CP in ship? ›

The longitudinal prismatic coefficient, CP, or simply prismatic coefficient is the ratio of the volume of displacement to the volume of a prism having a length equal to the length between perpendiculars and a cross-sectional area equal to the midship sectional area. From: Basic Ship Theory (Fifth Edition), 2001.

What does RMS mean in ships? ›

Not many people know that RMS stands for Royal Mail Ship – at the time though it stood for 'Royal Mail Steamer' – indicating that the Titanic was contracted to carry mail.

What does HQ mean in shipping? ›

The high cube containers are known under many names. Such as High cube, Hi-Cube, HC, or HQ. The majority of these containers are made from durable materials like steel or aluminum. High cubes are used to ship all kinds of dry cargo, just like standard containers.

What is CBM in shipping? ›

As stated, CBM stands for cubic meter and it is a measure of volume. 1. Once you know the CBM of your shipment, you can use it to determine the chargeable weight, which we'll go into further in just a bit.

What is the top of a container called? ›

A lid, also known as a cover, is part of a container, and serves as the closure or seal, usually one that completely closes the object.

What is ISO code for containers? ›

ISO6346 - Shipping Container Standard. ISO 6346 is an international standard which describes the identification of a shipping container. The standard is maintained by the BIC (International Container Bureau) and covers the serial number, owner, country code, and size of any given shipping container.

What are 53 containers used for? ›

They are used primarily for domestic over the road and rail service. 53ft high cube shipping containers | storage containers are perfect for commercial, industrial and rural storage applications.

What is a Type B container? ›

Type B packages are used to transport materials with high levels of radioactivity, such as spent fuel from nuclear power plants. These large, heavy packages provide shielding against the radiation. The size of the Type B packages can range from small containers to those weighing over 100 tons. Package Testing.

How many TEU are in a 40 container? ›

A forty-foot container is regarded as two twenty-foot containers or 2 TEUs (sometimes referred to as FEU, Forty Foot Equivalent Unit). To calculate how many TEU a container is, just divide the actual length in feet by twenty. For example, one forty-foot container is two TEUs.

What is FEU vs TEU? ›

TEU is an acronym for Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit. FEU is an acronym for Forty Foot Equivalent Unit. Both are used to describe the size of a container.

How many TEU are in a 53 container? ›

Containers of 45, 48 and 53 feet in length correspond to 2.25 (or 2), 2.4 and 2.65 TEUs, respectively.

What are the 3 characteristics of containers? ›

The three characteristics of highly effective containers
  • Efficiency. One of the most prominent reasons to use a container is improved efficiency. ...
  • Flexibility. ...
  • Security.
1 Aug 2018

What is the biggest container size? ›

The 53ft shipping containers are considered the largest ones as they are high cubes, i.e. they are one foot taller and six inches wider than standard containers.

How long does it take to unload a container ship? ›

Just unloading the ocean vessel can take 1-3 business days, because many ships have more than 10,000 containers on board. An FCL (Full Container Load) shipment will be available for pickup after the container is unloaded and placed in the arrival port's container yard.

How much fuel does a container ship use per day? ›

Most ship engines have been designed for top speeds ranging between 20 and 25 knots per hour, which is between 23 and 28 miles per hour. A Panamax container ship can consume 63,000 gallons of marine fuel per day at that speed.

How many pallets are in a container? ›

How many pallets fit into a 20' or 40' container? A 20'ft container can hold eleven "Europallets" in one tier or nine to ten standard pallets in one tier while a 40' container can hold 23-24 "Europallets" in one tier or 20-21 standard pallets in one tier.

How many types of containers are there? ›

Container units form the most integral part of the entire shipping industry, trade, and transport.

What is another name for cargo ships? ›

Cargo ships are also known as freighters. These enormous merchant ships carry cargo, goods and other materials from one nation or continent to another.

What are sea can called? ›

“C-Cans” or “Sea Cans”:

A BigSteelBox is a certified shipping container that is used for transport by ocean, rail, or road. They can be pulled, dragged or craned into place, and their structural integrity is never compromised.

What are the 5 major cargoes of dry bulk shipping? ›

Dry cargo, including (a) the five major bulk commodities (iron ore, coal, grain, bauxite and alumina, phosphate rock), (b) minor bulks (forest products and the like), (c) containerized trade, (d) general cargo/breakbulk, accounted for the largest share (70.2 per cent).

What is cargo and its types? ›

Cargo refers to goods that are transported from one location to another via various mediums of transportation like air, water, and land. From food to oil to large pieces of equipment, goods are transported worldwide through shipping now.

What are the 2 types of air cargo? ›

There are two types of air cargo – general and special cargo. General cargo includes high-value goods, such as electronics, jewellery and pharmaceuticals.

Why is a cargo called a cargo? ›

Cargo originates from the Latin word carricare which means "to load on a cart, or wagon." Cargo can be loaded on a cart, but it's usually loaded on something much bigger. On a ship, cargo is stacked up in huge, colorful metal containers.

What does AWB mean? ›

What Is an Air Waybill (AWB)? An air waybill (AWB) is a document that accompanies goods shipped by an international air courier to provide detailed information about the shipment and allow it to be tracked.

What's the difference between freight and cargo? ›

The main difference between cargo and freight is the fees associated with freight. Cargo is the goods carried by larger vehicles, like cargo ships and cargo planes. At the same time, the freight is the goods carried by trucks. Cargo does not refer to money charged for transportation.

What is the difference between cargo and logistics? ›

Cargo is the term used to describe the goods moved on a conveyance, and logistics is the science and art of organizing that movement. While cargo refers to the goods and materials, logistics is the end-to-end gambit, including customer support.


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