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LIMANi Ship Provisions Port of Spain and Portugal – RORO Ships, also known as ro-ro, refers to a method of cargo shipping derived from the term “roll-on/roll-off”. This method involves the transportation of wheeled cargo, such as cars, trucks, buses, trailers, and even industrial vehicles, on a vessel. These ships are equipped with ramps on either the bow or stern, or even on land, to facilitate the easy loading and unloading of the wheeled cargo, eliminating the need for a crane.

It is worth noting that ferries, which can operate across rivers and other short distances via sea, are a type of RORO vessel. However, the term “ro-ro” is commonly used to describe large oceangoing shipping vessels.

When discussing the cargo transportations, containers ships are often the first thing that comes to mind. However, the field of logistics provides alternative options, one of which is RoRo ships, specifically designed for maritime transport. RoRo ships stands for “Roll-on, Roll-off,” referring to the method by which a ship carries cargo with wheels.

The November 1995 amendments to Chapter II-1 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, provided a clear definition of the roll-on/roll-off ship. According to this definition, a roll-on/roll-off ship is categorized as a passenger ship that possesses ro-ro cargo spaces or special category spaces.

It is important to note that the roro ships differs from the Lo-Lo (lift on-lift off) ship, which utilizes a crane for cargo loading. In the case of a ro-ro ships, vehicles are loaded and unloaded through the use of built-in ramps. Typically, these ramps are located at the stern (backside) of the ship. However, some ships also have ramps on the bow side (front) and the sides. It is worth mentioning that roro ships can be utilized for both military and civilian purposes.

Interestingly, roro ships have been in existence since the 19th century. Initially, they were constructed to transport trains across rivers, as these trains were too wide to pass over bridges.

What are RoRo Ships?

What are RoRo Ships-LIMANi Ship Provisions Port Spain Portugal

RoRo Ships are specifically designed to transport a wide range of vehicles and machinery, including cars, agricultural tractors, mining and road machinery, trucks, semi-trailer trucks and trailers, buses, and industrial vehicles. Unlike LO-LO vessels that rely on cranes for loading and unloading, RoRo ships feature a built-in ramp that facilitates the smooth rolling on and off of cargo. This ramp allows self-propelled machines to be driven onto the ships using their own wheels, while non-self-propelled machines are loaded onto handling equipment equipped with wheels. Throughout the entire sea voyage, these machines remain securely positioned on the handling equipment.

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Typically, the ramp is located either at the front (bow side) or the back (stern) of the ship, although it can also be found on the sides or even on land in some cases. The ramp’s capacity on most RoRo carriers is approximately 150 tons, although certain vessels can handle up to 500 tons. This ramp system significantly simplifies and enhances the safety of loading and unloading operations for wheeled cargo compared to crane-based methods.

RoRo ships can feature up to 13 decks, with a majority of them having a capacity of 4,000 to 5,000 car equivalent units (CEU). However, there are some vessels that can accommodate up to 8,000 vehicles. Once a vehicle is onboard, it drives onto covered internal liftable ramps that connect the various decks, similar to a multi-level car park. The assigned location for each vehicle depends on its dimensions, including length, height, and weight. To ensure stability and security, the vehicles are then secured with lashings.

The Firth of Forth ferry, which commenced its operations in 1851, serves as an illustration of a RoRo ships. To facilitate seamless connection with the land, rails were installed on the ship. Consequently, a train could effortlessly embark onto the vessel and disembark at the opposite end.

There exist various categories of ro-ro vessels, including ferries, cruise ferries, cargo ships, and barges. Specifically designed for transporting automobiles and trucks across vast oceans, Pure Car Carriers (PCC) and Pure Truck & Car Carriers (PCTC) are the designated types of ro-ro vessels for this purpose.

In contrast to other cargos that are measured in metric tonnes, the ro-ro cargo is quantified in a unit known as lanes in meters (LIMs). LIM is determined by multiplying the cargo’s length in meters by the number of decks and its width in lanes. The width of the lanes may vary from one vessel to another, adhering to various industry standards.

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The largest RoRo Ships passenger ferry, known as MS Color Magic, boasts a weight of 75,100 GT (Gross Ton). It commenced its service in September 2007 under Color Line. This ferry was constructed in Finland by Aker Finnyards and spans a length of 223.70 meters, with a width of 35 meters. It has the capacity to accommodate 550 cars and transport 1270 lane meters of cargo.

On the other hand, the RoRo Ships passenger ferry with the highest car-carrying capability is the Ulysses. This ferry, named after a novel by James Joyce, is owned by Irish Ferries. It commenced operations on 25 March 2001, operating between Dublin and Holyhead. Weighing 50,938 GT, it stretches 209.02 meters in length and 31.84 meters in width. The Ulysses can accommodate 1342 cars and transport 4101 lane meters of cargo.

What are the Types of RoRo Ships?

While ferries, cruise ferries, and barges are suitable for transporting vehicles across rivers and short sea distances, the term “RoRo” is typically used to refer to large deep-sea vessels specifically designed for shipping vehicles. The largest RoRo ships have the capacity to endure immense pressure, up to 10 tons per square meter, making them ideal for transporting heavy cargo. In addition to vehicles, these vessels are capable of carrying high-and-heavy cargo, break bulk shipments, special products, as well as facilitating the heavy-duty transportation of steel and paper.

Various types of ships of RoRo Ships are utilized based on the specific characteristics of the cargo being transported.

Pure Car Carriers (PCC) and Pure car/truck Carrier (PCTC)

The first one is exclusively designed for cars, while the second one is specifically designed for trucks and car transportation. Both of them feature a box-like structure with multiple decks, and some of them are built larger to accommodate bigger vehicles.

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ConRo (or RoCon) Vessels

The facility has the capacity to cater to both rolling equipment and containerized freight. The upper decks are designated for containers, which are loaded or lifted off using cranes, while the lower decks are utilized for vehicles that are rolled on or rolled off and stored.


The hybrid ship is a unique vessel that integrates both roll-on and lift-off capabilities. The vehicle decks are equipped with ramps, however, depending on the port’s infrastructure, a crane may also be utilized.


RO/RO passenger stands for roll-on/roll-off passenger, such as ferries and cruise ferries. These ships combine the transportation of private cars and commercial vehicles with passenger facilities for shorter trips.


Additionally, there exist RoRo ships specifically designed for military purposes. The Military Sealift Command (MSC) operates a fleet of large, medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off (LMSR) ships.

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