9 Types of Ships [PDF]

Hey everyone, In this blog, I shall discuss everyone’s childhood curiosity about the types of ships. I have also shared a PDF at the end.

Types of Ships: Design Process

Cargo vessels are categorized into diverse types, considering factors such as purpose, size, and the nature of the cargo being transported.

In the realm of merchant ship design, the economic aspect takes primary importance. Owners look for optimal returns on their investments. Consequently, the construction of a ship is not solely dictated by current economic requirements but also entails a consideration of future adaptability.

When exploring the preliminary design phase of a vessel scheduled for construction, essential information is as follows

  • Dimensions
  • Displacement
  • Stability
  • Propulsive characteristics and hull form
  • Preliminary general arrangement
  • Principal structural details

A comprehensive outline of types of ships and their subdivisions will be provided, encompassing a broad spectrum of vessels currently in operation.

List of Types of Ships

Below, I have provided the list of types of ships

Cargo Ships

What are Container ships?

Container ships are specialized vessels designed for efficient cargo transport in standardized containers, a process known as containerization. They come in various types, each tailored to specific trade routes and canal dimensions:

These ships play a pivotal role in global trade, efficiently transporting cargo in standardized containers, adapting to specific trade routes, and evolving over generations to meet the demands of the maritime industry.

Cargo Ships

Types of Container ships

  • Panamax: Suited for the Panama Canal, carrying 4000-5000 TEUs
  • Post-Panamax: Larger vessels were introduced after 1996, with capacities of 6400 TEU or more.
  • Suezmax: sized for the Suez Canal, with a capacity of around 12,000 TEUs.
  • Post-Suezmax: ultra-large vessels with a capacity of 18000 TEU.
  • Post-Malaccamax: Designed based on the maximum permissible draft of 21m in the Malacca Strait.

Bulk Carriers

What are Bulk carriers?

Bulk carriers are vessels designed for transporting loose cargo loads in large quantities across oceanic channels. Originating in the 1850s, these ships were initially built to transport food grains, ores, and minerals, evolving over time to become indispensable in global maritime trade.

Types of Bulk carriers

Basic Bulk Carrier / Conventional Bulkers

  • Equipped with hatchways, cranes, and transporters.
  • Versatile for carrying diverse cargoes globally.

Combined Bulk Carriers

  • Special design for ore bulk and oil cargo.
  • The deck features pipelines and pontoons.
Bulk Carrier
Bulk Ships
ship types pdf

Gearless Bulk Carrier

  • Large vessels without cranes.
  • Limited port calls to conveyor-equipped facilities
  • Cost-effective due to no crane expenses.

Self Dischargers

  • Equipped with self-discharging and loading facilities.
  • Operate in inaccessible waterways.
  • Can discharge directly on the quay, barge, warehouse, or hoppers.

Bulker Lakers

  • Operate in American Great Lakes.
  • Unique construction for freshwater longevity.
  • Accommodation in forwarding aids in navigating locks.

BIBO or “Bulk-In, Bags Out”

  • Loads bulk cargo with simultaneous bagging.
  • Short port stays due to quick discharge.

Open Hatch Bulk Carrier/Forest Product Carriers

  • No upper or lower wing tanks; linear sides
  • Geared for cargo-specific handling equipment

Bulk Carrier Types As Per Size

  • Mini Bulk Carrier (DWT < 10,000)
  • Small Bulk Carrier (DWT 10,000–25,000)
  • Handy Size Carriers (DWT 25,000–40,000)
  • Handymax Carriers (DWT 40,000–60,000)
  • Panamax Carriers (DWT 60,000–100,000)
  • Post-Panamax Bulk Carrier (DWT 80,000–120,000)
  • Capesize Bulk Carrier (DWT 100,000–200,000)
  • VLBC (Very Large Bulk Carriers) (DWT > 200,000)

Bulk Carrier Categories As Per Region

  • Kamsarmax Bulker (Port of Kamsar)
  • Newcastlemax Bulker (Port of Newcastle)
  • Setouchmax Bulker (Setouchi Sea, Japan)
  • Seawaymax Bulker (St. Lawrence Seaway)
  • Malaccamax Bulker (Strait of Malacca)
  • Dunkirkmax Bulker (Port of Dunkirk)

Tanker Ships

what are tanker ships

Tanker ships are vessels designed for transporting large quantities of liquefied cargo, including crude oil, petroleum, LNG, LPG, chemicals, and other liquid substances. They play a vital role in the maritime industry, facilitating the movement of liquids in bulk.

Tanker ships come in various sizes, from small self-propelled barges to massive Ultra Large Crude Carriers (ULCCs). They are classified based on cargo type, size, and their ability to navigate through specific waterways. These vessels adhere to safety standards set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to ensure the secure transportation of volatile substances.

Oil tanker ships
LPG ship
Tanker Ships

Types of Tanker Ships

Crude Oil Tankers

  • Transport oil via marine channels.
  • Handles both crude and processed rock oil.

Chemical Tankers

  • Specialized in diverse chemical transport.
  • Adheres to strict IMO safety standards.

Product Tankers

  • Carry refined petroleum products.
  • Categorized by Dead Weight Tons (DWT)

Gas Tankers

  • Designed for LNG and LPG transport
  • Ensures secure gaseous substance handling.

Roll On Roll Off Shipes

What are Roll-on, Roll-Off (RoRo) ships?

RoRo ships, also known as car carriers, are specialized vessels designed for the transportation of automobiles. They feature ramps (inclines) for easy loading and unloading of vehicles and cargo. The ramps are connected to the entrance at the front (bow) or back (aft) of the vessel, allowing vehicular traffic to move smoothly.

RoRo ships find applications not only in civilian transportation, transiting vehicles between ports and riverside harbors but also in the naval sector for transporting important naval freight.

Roll On Roll Off Shipes
vehicle transport ship
vehicle transporter

Types of Roll-On, Roll-Off (RoRo) Ships

Pure Car Carrier (PCC) and Pure Car and Truck Carrier (PCTC):

  • PCC transports only cars.
  • PCTC transports cars, trucks, and other four-wheeled vehicles.
  • Used for delivering new vehicles to export destinations.

Container Vessel + RoRo (ConRo) Ship:

  • Combines features of a traditional container vessel and a RoRo ship.
  • Even distribution and balance of loads.
  • Transits loads between 20,000 to over 50,000 deadweight tonnes (DWT).

General Cargo + RoRo Ship (GenRo):

  • Normal cargo vessel with RoRo capability.
  • Compact, capable of carrying loads with DWTs between 2,000 to almost 30,000.


  • Carries vehicles and provides accommodations for passengers.
  • Commonly known as ferries transporting vehicles and passengers across river docks.

Complete RoRo Ship:

  • Features include both inside and outside.
  • No hatchways, used mainly on high seas.
  • Self-contained, capable of loading 2,000 to around 40,000 DWT.

Measurement Gauges:

  • Loads in RoRo vessels are measured in lanes in meters (LiM).
  • Calculated by multiplying the length and breadth of load paths with the total number of decks in the vessel.

Passenger Ships

What are passenger ships

Passenger ships are versatile merchant vessels designed for national and international voyages, and transporting passengers. Ranging from small yachts to large cruise ships, they adhere to IMO regulations for safety. Historically, sailing marked the earliest mode of transportation, evolving through the ages. In the modern era, passenger ships fall into two main categories

Passenger ships
Passeneger vessels 
ferry boat
ferry ship

Types of Passenger Ships

  • Ferry Ships:
    • Used for short-distance water travel.
    • Can be for passengers only or for both passengers and vehicles.
    • Operate on a regular schedule with fixed fares.
  • Cruise Ships:
    • Large vessels with luxury amenities for transportation and destination vacations.
    • Further subdivided into:
      • Large Cruise Ships: Higher voyager capacities.
      • Small Cruise Ships: Smaller voyager capacities.
      • Liners: Equipped with top facilities, resembling floating cities.
      • Special Cruise Ships: Designed for specific destinations like polar regions.

Offshore Vessels

what are offshore vessels

Offshore vessels are specialized ships crucial for high-seas operations, notably in oil exploration and construction. These vessels play pivotal roles, from supplying offshore rigs to laying pipes, conducting exploratory drilling, and supporting construction operations, highlighting their significance in modern maritime activities.

This comprehensive category encompasses various types tailored to distinct functions:

Offshore Vessels
Offshore drilling Vessels

Types of Offshore Vessels

  • Oil Exploration and Drilling Vessels:
    • Types: Drill Ship, Jack Up, Semi-submersible, Barge, Floating Platforms, Tenders.
  • Offshore Support Vessels:
    • Types: Anchor Handling Tug, Seismic, Platform Supply, Well Intervention, Accommodation.
  • Offshore Production Vessels:
    • Types: FPSO, SPAR Platform, Shuttle Tankers, Tension Leg Platform.
  • Offshore Construction Vessels:
    • Types: Diving Support, Crane, Pipe Laying.

Notable Vessels

  • North Sea Giant: Tallest Offshore Vessel.
  • Neptune: Powerful Jack-up.
  • Type O: Semi-submersible Transport.
  • Bourbon Front: Platform Supply.

Fishing Vessels

What are fishing vessels

Fishing vessels are specialized boats or ships designed for catching fish in lakes, seas, or rivers. They play a crucial role in the fisheries sector, catering to various fishing needs. The main types include the following

fishing boat
fishing vessels

Types of Fishing Vessels

  • Commercial Fishing Vessels:
    • Trawlers: Stern and Cutter categories, drag nets for various fish.
    • Non-Trawling Vessels: Include Seiners, Longliners, and Tuna Clippers.
  • Recreational Fishing Vessels:
    • Used for fun and amusement, ranging from small to large boats.
  • Artisanal Fishing Vessels:
    • Small-scale boats owned by individuals, competing with commercial vessels.

Notable Types

  • Seiners: Catch pelagic species with seine nets.
  • Longliners: Use long lines with baited hooks.
  • Gillnetters: Trap fish using gill nets, operated manually or with technology.
  • Crabbers: Specialized for crab fishing with entrapping aids.
  • Drifters: Use drift fishing nets, especially for herring.
  • Factory Ship: Floating sea factory, handling fishing and processing functions.

Specialty Vessels

What are Specialty Vessels

Specialty vessels are purpose-built for specific functions, each catering to distinct maritime needs. These vessels play crucial roles in diverse maritime operations, showcasing the versatility and specialization within the maritime industry.

Specialty Vessels
tug boats
types of ships

Types of Speciality Vessels

  • Tugboats (Tugs):
    • Used for maneuvering vessels by pushing or towing them.
  • Tenders:
    • Boats or larger ships supporting and servicing others, often transporting people and supplies.
  • Pilot Crafts:
    • Designed for the transportation of harbor pilots.
  • Cable Layers:
    • Assist in laying cables onto the sea bed.
  • Research Vessels:
    • Specialized for various sea research purposes, including seismic, hydrographic, oceanographic, and polar research.
  • Salvage Vessels:
    • Engaged in salvage operations, recovering lost property at sea.
  • Lightships:
    • Function as floating lighthouses in deep or unsuitable waters for lighthouse construction.
  • Barge Carriers:
    • Flat-bottomed boats designed for river and canal transport of heavy goods.
  • Timber Carriers:
    • Vessels specifically transporting timber.
  • Livestock Carriers:
    • Designed to transport livestock or animals.
  • Ice Breaker Ships:
    • Used for cutting ice deposits in extremely cold conditions, ensuring navigable waters.

High-Speed Craft

What are high-speed crafts/vessels

In the past five decades, the demand for marine vehicles with superior performance, specifically in terms of speed, has surged. Achieving such high speeds required innovative propulsion systems and hull designs, necessitating extensive technical studies. Several technologies have emerged to enhance the performance of high-speed marine vehicles. This article explores some widely used technologies in the realm of high-performance marine vessels.

High speed ships
high speed vessels
types of ships pdf
High-Speed Craft

types of high-speed crafts/vessels

  • Planning Crafts:
    • Exploits the planning effect for elevated hull performance.
    • Optimal trim angles and chines minimize spray resistance.
  • SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull):
    • Enhances seakeeping with low waterplane area.
    • Compensates for stability issues with ballast systems.
  • Hydrofoil Crafts:
    • Utilizes lift from hydrofoils for reduced frictional drag.
    • Two types: Surface Piercing and Incidence Controlled.
  • Air Cushion Vehicles (ACVs):
    • Hovercrafts using aerostatic cushion for buoyancy.
    • Minimizes frictional resistance with inflatable skirts.
    • Addresses spray resistance with vectoring propellers and air rudders.


What are dredgers

A dredger is a marine vessel designed to remove sediment deposits from the seabed, ensuring safe navigation and serving various purposes such as beach replenishment, mining, and environmental cleanup.

parts of dredgers ship

Types of dredgers

  • Mechanical Dredgers:
    • Bucket Dredgers: Anchored, use a chain of buckets for sediment removal.
    • Bucket Ladder Dredgers: Improved bucket design on a rotating wheel.
    • Grab Dredgers: Stationary, employ a clamshell mechanism for excavation.
    • Backhoe Dredgers: Hydraulically driven, akin to onshore excavators.
  • Hydraulic Dredgers:
    • Suction Dredgers: Use a vertical suction pipe to remove sand or silt.
    • Trailing Suction Hopper Dredger: Self-driven with hoppers for material storage.
    • Water Injection Dredger: Utilizes water jets for fluidizing sediments.
  • Other Types:
    • Jet-lift and Air-lift Dredgers: Operate on Venturi effect or high-pressure air.
    • Augur Suction Dredgers: Equipped with a rotating screw for precise dredging.
    • Reclamation Dredger: Designed for reclamation and barge unloading.
    • Pneumatic Dredgers: Use vacuum pressure for pumping bed material.
    • Amphibious Dredgers: Advanced vessels for submerged or raised operations.
    • Plough or Bed Leveller: Specialized dredger with a cutting blade for scraping.


I hope my guide on the different types of ships and their functions made it easy to understand. Feel free to write to us in the comments and make sure to check other articles on the website too

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