What is a Ro-Ro Ship?

Ro-Ro Ship, short for Roll-on/Roll-off ship, is an integral part of international sea freight transportation. Offering a unique blend of convenience, cost-effectiveness, and adaptability, Ro-Ro freight can be a highly efficient solution for certain types of cargo.

Ro-Ro Ship, short for Roll-on/Roll-off ship, is an integral part of international sea freight transportation. Offering a unique blend of convenience, cost-effectiveness, and adaptability, Ro-Ro freight can be a highly efficient solution for certain types of cargo.

The Definition of a Ro-Ro Ship 

Written by Mathilda

The Ro-Ro ship is a specially designed vessel that allows wheeled cargo – such as cars, trucks, trailers, or even railroad cars – to be driven on and off the ship, a feature that grants it the name “Roll-on/Roll-off.” This eliminates the need for cranes to lift cargo on and off, resulting in significant time and cost savings during the loading and unloading processes.

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Variations of the Ro-Ro Ship 

Ro-Ro ships come in a myriad of variations, each tailored to meet specific transportation requirements. These vessels provide seamless loading and unloading processes, making them popular in the shipping industry. Below are a few of the more common types of Ro-Ro ships.

Pure Car Carriers (PCC) and Pure Car and Truck Carriers (PCTC)

As the names suggest, these ships are specifically designed to transport cars and trucks. They have multiple decks, both enclosed and open, and can carry hundreds, sometimes thousands, of vehicles at a time.

ConRo Ships

These hybrid vessels are designed to carry both containerized and Ro-Ro cargo. This combination offers flexibility, making ConRo ships a versatile choice for shipping a diverse range of goods.

RoPax Ships

These vessels can transport both passengers and Ro-Ro cargo, typically vehicles. They are commonly used in ferry services and can be a cost-effective way to transport both people and vehicles across short distances.

RoLo Ships

Combining lift-on/lift-off and roll-on/roll-off capabilities, RoLo ships offer flexibility for cargoes that cannot be driven onto the ship.

LMSR Ships

Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off (LMSR) ships are typically used by military forces for the transport of tanks, trucks, and other heavy vehicles.


The Unique Advantages of Ro-Ro Freight

Ro-Ro freight offers a multitude of advantages over traditional container shipping, especially when dealing with large or awkwardly shaped cargo. Here are the unique advantages of using Ro-Ro shipping for the various stakeholders.

Ease of Loading and Unloading

The ability to drive vehicles on and off a Ro-Ro ship significantly reduces the time and manpower needed for loading and unloading. This not only speeds up the overall shipping process but also reduces labor costs.

Less Handling, Less Damage

With minimal handling involved in the loading and unloading process, the risk of cargo damage is significantly reduced. This makes Ro-Ro transport a safer option for high-value vehicles and machinery.


Ro-Ro ships can accommodate a wider variety of cargo sizes and types than most other shipping methods. Whether you’re shipping small passenger cars, large trucks, or oversized heavy machinery, Ro-Ro ships can handle it all.


Ro-Ro transport often proves to be a more cost-effective solution, particularly for heavy-duty and oversized vehicles that would require special equipment and procedures to load into containers.


Ro-Ro shipping is generally faster than container shipping, which can involve more complex loading and unloading procedures. For businesses operating on tight schedules, this speed can be a significant advantage.

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Ro-Ro Transport vs. Container Transport: Which One is Right for You?

While Ro-Ro freight is a versatile and cost-effective mode of transportation, it’s not suitable for every type of cargo. Fragile, valuable, or small-sized goods that require extra protection may be better suited to container shipping. The choice between Ro-Ro transport and container shipping should be made based on factors like the nature of your cargo, cost, shipping routes, and the availability of services at your ports of choice.

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What types of vehicles can be transported with Ro-Ro ships?

Ro-Ro ships can accommodate a wide range of wheeled vehicles and machinery. This includes passenger cars, trucks, buses, trailers, tractors, excavators, and even railway cars. If the cargo can be driven or rolled onto the ship on its own wheels or a platform vehicle, it’s likely suitable for Ro-Ro transport.

Are Ro-Ro ships suitable for international transportation?

Ro-Ro ships are particularly suitable for international transportation. They offer a cost-effective and efficient method of transporting vehicles and other wheeled cargo across the oceans. Ro-Ro shipping is also typically faster than container shipping, making it an ideal choice for long-distance, intercontinental shipments.

Are Ro-Ro services available for individual vehicle owners?

Yes, Ro-Ro services are not exclusive to businesses or large-scale shippers. Individual vehicle owners looking to ship their cars or other wheeled vehicles across countries can also utilize Ro-Ro services. However, it’s always important to consult with a reputable freight forwarder to understand the process, costs, and specific requirements.

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