A Comprehensive Guide to Roll-On Roll-Off Vessels

Navigating the Details of Roll-On Roll-Off Vessels in the Maritime Industry

Roll-on Roll-off vessels are commonly used in the maritime industry to transport wheeled, irregular, oversized cargo across international waters. The building of the ship offers immense space to load many vehicles and goods, and their movement is facilitated by a specialised ramp through which the cargo is stowed inside the deck. There, the cargo is secured into its place to avoid any collision during the voyage. RoRo shipping method is cost-effective, flexible, versatile, and secure for transporting wheeled cargo. Let us learn more about roll-on roll-off vessels. 

What is a RoRo Cargo Ship? 

RoRo ships, also known as roll-on roll-off vessels, are used for vessels that are used explicitly for transporting wheeled cargo. RoRo is used to define loading and unloading cargo from the vessel. All wheeled cargo, including cars, trucks and trailers, are rolled inside the vessel using an inclined platform or ramps that facilitate the entry and exit of such cargo. Upon reaching its destination, the cargo is rolled off the ship using the same ramp. RoRo ships are ferry vessels used entirely for commercial purposes. The cargo is parked on the ship’s deck according to a stowage plan. RoRo vessels have multiple levels for parking wheeled cargo and can accommodate a large quantity of cargo as they have up to 13 decks onboard. The vessel capacity is measured in CEU or car equivalent units, and most RoRo vessels have a capacity of around 4000-5000 CEU. 

What is the roll-on roll-off technique? 

Unlike all other methods of transporting cargo where goods are packed into the shipping container and loaded into different types of containerships, RoRo transportation does not require containerisation.  

  • The roll-on-roll-off technique is used for cargo capable of powering and stowing themselves inside the ship.  
  • The ramps help bridge the deck and quay to facilitate the easy movement of wheeled cargo. It eliminates the need for additional machines or equipment to stow the cargo to the deck. 
  • For RoRo transportation, the ramp is laid out, and cargo such as cars, trucks, railroad cars, and buses operate on their fuel and move up the ramp to reach the deck at the port of origin.  
  • The terminal operators follow a stowage plan to guide the vehicles to their parking area.  
  • There, the vehicles are secured in their places using container lashings that attach the chassis of the wheeled vehicle to the secure points on the deck.  
  • For stability, two to six secure points are locked on either side of the parked vehicle.  
  • Apart from vehicles, RoRo ships are also used for moving heavy machinery and oversized cargo by loading them on maritime vehicles attached to a chassis. 

How do Roll-On Roll-Off vessels differ from traditional cargo ships? 

Traditional cargo ships such as bulk cargo carriers, LPG tankers, and reefer ships are used to carry a variety of goods. Each cargo ship is specified to transport a specific type of goods in different states, solid, liquid or gaseous. RoRo ships are different from traditional cargo ships in many ways- 

  1. Traditional cargo ships utilise cranes, forklifts, and other resources to stow cargo containers or unpacked cargo inside the ship. RoRo ships use ramps to stow cargo inside the ship onto the deck. 
  2. Traditional ships offer greater flexibility by allowing shippers to load bulk commodities and different types of cargo. Meanwhile, RoRo ships are mainly used to transport wheeled cargo across international waters. 
  3. In the case of traditional ships, it is more time-consuming to load goods manually or using cranes and forklifts inside the ship. RoRo vessels benefit shippers by allowing them to power up the cargo directly and roll it on or off the ship without any complex cargo handling techniques involved. Therefore, the turnaround time of RoRo ships is faster than that of traditional cargo ships. 

Types of RoRo ships 

  1. PCC and PCTC RoRo ships– A PCC or pure car carrier is a type of roll-on roll-off vessel that primarily transports cars, while a PCTC or pure car and truck carrier can transport trucks and other four-wheeled vehicles alongside cars. 
  2. ConRo ships– They are a combination of container vessels and RoRo ships. These vessels can carry out the work of RoRo ships and traditional container vessels. The features and interior of the vessel are well-built to carry different types of goods, both containerised and un-containerised. 
  3. GenRo ships– Combining a generalship and a RoRo vessel, GenRo ships can accommodate wheeled vehicles and have room for general cargo. 
  4. RoPax ships– These RoRo ships can transport automobiles, heavy machinery and other oversized cargo alongside passengers onboard. 

Benefits of Roll-on roll-off shipping 

The use of RoRo vessels facilitates the shipment of wheeled cargo in various ways. Let us learn more about the advantages of roll-on roll-off vessels in shipping. 

  1. Enhanced efficiency– Stowage of wheeled cargo is more streamlined than loading shipping containers onboard. Efficient cargo movement in RoRo ships helps reduce port congestion and waiting time for cargo on container depots
  2. Improves supply chain agility– With a reduced loading and unloading time, it becomes easier to ship wheeled and oversized cargo using RoRo vessels, and supply chain agility can be established. 
  3. Cost-effectiveness– Roll-on roll-off shipping is a cost-effective method of shipping goods across the globe. Heavy cargo and machinery can be easily transported without the use of any lifting or container-handling equipment. 
  4. Versatility– Automobile industries that deal with wheeled cargo are leveraged using RoRo vessels. Every size of wheeled cargo can fit into these specialised ships, along with oversized heavy machinery. 
  5. Reduces risk of damage– The wheeled vehicles are placed at an appropriate distance from each other and secured using lashings, chocks and other restraints to position the vehicle in place and prevent it from shifting even during turbulence. 

What goods are loaded on RoRo ships? 

The main aim of RoRo vessels is to accommodate, and transport wheeled vessels, although they also transport cargo that can be easily rolled on and off the ship. A few types of cargo loaded on RoRo ships are- 

  1. Automobiles and vehicles– RoRo ships have open decks and specialised ramps to allow automobiles and motor vehicles such as buses, cars, trucks, and SUVs to be loaded and unloaded from the ship. Individuals who want to relocate their vehicles and automobile industries with an enormous need for shipping reap the benefits of RoRo shipping. 
  2. Equipment and heavy machinery– Heavy machinery such as bulldozers and cranes used in construction, tractors and harvesters used for agriculture, and other industrial machinery can be easily transported in these vessels. The large decks make it feasible to load oversized cargo onto the vessel. 
  3. Breakbulk cargo– These goods cannot be fitted inside standard shipping containers due to their irregular size and shape. Examples of this non-containerised cargo include lumber, steel, generators, and turbines. RoRo ships offer additional flexibility by allowing the transportation of such cargo by loading it on wheeled chassis. 
  4. Live animals– Besides transporting non-living things, a few RoRo ships also allow transporting animals such as livestock and horses. However, transportation is supervised by workers under controlled conditions. 
  5. Rollable cargo– Apart from wheeled cargo and oversized cargo loaded on wheeled chassis for stowage, cargo such as drums, tanks, and large rolls of paper are also rolled onto the ship for transportation. 

        These goods can be loaded on roll-on roll-off vessels to allow cost-effective, flexible and versatile transportation for the shippers. 

        LOTUS Containers sells different types of shipping containers in various sizes to fulfil the varying shipping needs of shippers across the globe.

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