Ship types based on the transported cargo

There is a long list of ship types based on the transported cargo. The most used shipping method in the world is sea shipping. It corresponds to approximately 90% of global trade, and these vessels cover all oceans around the globe. There is a reason why companies rely on these methods the most. They are cheap, large, and easy to use. You can be sure that Kokusai Express Japan uses only the best ships and vehicles to transport items safely and on time.

Ship types based on the transported cargo

Sea freight vehicles are trustworthy, provide safety, and do not cost too much. You can see many models, from massive container ships to specialized bulk carriers and oil tankers. However, this article breaks down the most common ship types based on the transported cargo.

Container ships

The most common vehicle for sea freight transport is a container ship. You can see it in every photo that represents a large ship container. It is designed to carry standard 20’, 40’, and 45’ containers and accommodate most dry-load transport. Thanks to their big capacity and reliability, overseas shipping companies gladly use them for their purposes. Since they are huge, companies use gantry cranes to load them. The giant container ship is Emma Maersk.

There are a lot of ship types based on the transported cargo.

General cargo ships

It is a slightly different shipping model since it does not have classic containers. Sea freight forwarders mostly use them to carry packaged goods. To load such ships, companies do not use giant cranes for loading but more comfortable resolutions. They use their built-in cranes for loading and unloading items once at ports.


You may have seen these large vehicles in photos representing oil transporting worldwide, and companies usually use them for that purpose. They are designed to transport many liquids in bulk, such as petroleum products (oil, gas), chemicals, wine, or juice. Although companies do not use them for heavy lift cargo, workers should also be trained in handling such cargo. They are further subdivided into different types based on the load carried.

Dry bulk carriers

Solid non-packaged loose dry cargo in bulk quantities is typically transported using dry bulk carriers. Companies that organize cargo import in Japan depend on these highly professional ship models. They use them for bagged cargo (cement, wheat, sugar) and palletized cargo (paints, chemicals). You can also see them transporting minerals (coal, iron, or), food grains, and timber. Spoon-shaped cranes are used for loading items onto them, though. Their decks have specific areas dedicated to this activity.

Gas carriers

Although users sometimes mix gas carriers with oil tankers, they have more sophisticated technology to store liquid gas. They also can keep an increasingly popular fuel. Depending on the fuel type, we can divide them into LNG, which is specialized in housing liquid natural gas, and LPG, which works with liquid petroleum gas. The main difference is technical since LNGs carry gas at temperatures up to -170ºC and LPGs at -50ºC and 18 Kg/cm2 pressure. LNGs are visibly different, with their large spherical tanks on deck. Some shippers carry chemical cargo, too. On top of that, they have several tanks to keep from mixing the other substances they are transporting.

Tankers, one of the ship types based on the transported cargo
Tankers are very popular among manufacturers.

Multi-purpose vessels

When transporting various types of goods, these vessels come into consideration. Since they can carry a combination of all kinds of goods (general cargo, liquid), companies often use them. However, when doing so, they must separate containers and storage systems. With that in mind, if you need an all-around overseas moving service, you should use them. But only along the routes that require self-geared ships and have no shore-handling facilities available.

Reefer ships

Reefer ships are designed for the transport of frozen/temperature-controlled cargoes. For that purpose, they use refrigerated containers. They are popular among food manufacturers, who use them to transport various food and perishable goods (fruits, vegetables, meat, fish). Keeping the food at a shallow temperature is crucial to ensure its good condition during transit.

Roll-on/roll-off vessels

These ships use ramps and platforms for transporting all types of vehicles. They are made to transport wheeled cargo, from private cars to industrial vehicles or lorries. However, even buses, trucks, construction equipment, and excavators can be carried on deck. These ships are handy since the vehicles can directly roll on and off the vessel, whether driven or by handling equipment with wheels. The only thing affecting the shipping method is whether they are self-propelled.

Livestock vessels

It is possible to transport live animals with these ships. They have unique characteristics, like animal feeding zones. Additionally, there are even ships with open-air corrals, although they are mainly enclosed.

Understand the meaning of shortcuts

If you have transported your items recently, you may have noticed shortcuts like ETA, ETD, ATD, AND ATA. All of them have their meaning, which you must understand if you want to transport items by sea. So, if you need clarification on their purpose, you can ask people at the company for help.

Companies use different methods to categorize cargo ships

Companies have various ways and standards for categorizing cargo ships. The categorization of cargo ships can differ based on each company’s established measures. However, contact the company you are dealing with for more information about the specific criteria.

Containers boarded on ship
Transporting demands specialized vehicles

Service regularity

Companies use predetermined schedules to regulate the shipping process. Passengers may follow a fixed route or plan between regular ports of call. These companies typically charge a fixed contractual price. The ships they used are, furthermore, referred to as ocean cargo liners.

Companies do not use it always

Some vessels do not follow a predetermined schedule or published list of ports of call. Various users can charter these ships to transport their goods. Furthermore, smaller shipping companies with a fleet that is not large enough for liner voyages generally opt for tramp ships, one of the ship types based on the transported cargo.

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