Ro-Ro Ships: Definition, Types and Advantages

May 3, 2024

In the world of maritime transport, Ro-Ro (Roll-on/Roll-off) vessels represent an efficient and specialised solution for the transport of vehicles and roll-on/roll-off goods.

Throughout this article, we will explain in detail what Ro-Ro vessels are, their different types, and the significant advantages they offer within the maritime industry.

With a practical and explanatory approach, we will seek to understand how these vessels facilitate global logistics operations, making a noticeable difference to the economics of transport.

What is a Ro-Ro Ship?

Definition and Main Features

The term “Ro-Ro” refers to ships designed for transporting cargo moving on wheels, such as cars, trucks, semi-trailers, tractors, among others.

This type of vessel is equipped with ramps that allow cargo to be “rolled” on board and off the ship, eliminating the need for cranes to load and unload the cargo.

This method is not only more straightforward, but it also significantly reduces waiting times in ports and minimises the risk of damage to cargo.

Unique Features

  • Access ramps: They allow efficient and fast loading and unloading.
  • Adjustable decks: Some Ro-Ro ships have floors that can be adjusted to accommodate different types of vehicles and high loads.
  • Specialised storage areas: Designed to handle and protect all types of vehicles and wheeled goods.
What is Ro-Ro? | Puerto de Santa Marta

Types of Ro-Ro Ships

Ro-Ro vessels can be classified into several categories, depending on their configuration and the type of cargo they are designed to carry.

This diversity allows Ro-Ro vessels to serve a wide spectrum of needs in the shipping industry.

Pure Car Car Carrier (PCC)

Designed specifically for car transport, these vessels have numerous adjustable decks that can be adapted to the size and shape of the vehicles, optimising space and maximising cargo capacity.

These vessels are essential for car manufacturers international, as they allow for the efficient movement of large volumes of cars between continents.

PCCs, with their specialised internal structures, minimise movement and ensure that vehicles arrive at their destination undamaged, which is crucial to maintaining the quality and value of the new vehicle.

ConRo ship

ConRo vessels represent a combination of container ships and Ro-Ro vessels, offering the flexibility to transport both roll-on/roll-off cargo and containers in different holds or on deck.

This allows operators to maximising cargo space efficiency and adapt to different types of markets and demands.

These vessels are particularly valuable on routes where demand for non-road freight is as high as for road freight, allowing operators to offer a more comprehensive and versatile service.


RoPax vessels are a category of Ro-Ro which also have passenger facilities. These vessels are common on short routes, such as ferry crossings in Europe, where passengers travel with their vehicles.

RoPaxes not only transport commercial and passenger vehicles, they also also offer amenities such as cabins, restaurants and shops, which enhances the travel experience.

Their efficiency in loading and unloading vehicles, combined with the ability to serve as a means of transport for hundreds of passengers, makes them essential on many coastal and cross-border shipping routes.

Buque LASH (encendedor de a bordo)

Although less common, the LASH vessel is another type of Ro-Ro which uses small boats known as lighters for loading and unloading cargo.

These lighters are vessels that can transport cargo to areas that are not equipped with port infrastructure suitable for large vessels.

LASH vessels carry these lighters on board, allowing them to operate in ports that would otherwise not be able to handle large-scale cargoes..

Heavy Cargo Ro-Ro Ships

Specialised in the transport of heavy and bulky goods, such as heavy machinery and components for large projects, these vessels are equipped with ramps and reinforced decks to handle exceptionally heavy loads.

They are crucial for industries such as construction and mining, where the ability to move large equipment efficiently and safely can mean the difference between the success and failure of a large-scale project.

Each of these Ro-Ro vessel types are designed to meet the specific needs of the global market, which underlines the importance of this category of vessels within the maritime sector.

With their unique capabilities, Ro-Ro vessels continue to be a vital part of the global supply and logistics chain.

Advantages of Ro-Ro Ships

Ro-Ro vessels offer a number of benefits that make them preferred in many shipping operations. The following are details of the most significant advantages of these vessels, underlining their importance in the transport industry.

Efficiency and Speed

The design of Ro-Ro ships allows for much faster loading and unloading compared to other methods such as general cargo ships that require cranes and other equipment to move cargo.

This speed is essential not only for reduce transit time but also for lowering the associated costs with the vessel’s idle time in port.

In addition, the ability of Ro-Ro vessels to carry out loading and unloading operations simultaneously through the use of multiple ramps further accelerates these processes, allowing vessels to pass through the same ramp less time in port and more time in navigation, thereby maximising its operational efficiency.

Safety and Damage Reduction

Direct cargo handling, where vehicles and goods are simply driven on board and off the vessel, significantly reduces the chances of damage during the loading and unloading process.

This is especially critical for valuable cargo such as new vehicles and expensive machinery. By minimising cargo handling, the Ro-Ro vessels ensure a greater integrity dthe product, which is crucial for maintaining customer confidence and reduce claims insurance against damage during transport.

Operational Flexibility

The capacity to transporting a wide variety of goods Ro-Ro vessels are a versatile choice for many industrialists and traders.

From cars and trucks to heavy machinery and agricultural equipment, Ro-Ro vessels can be used in a variety of ways adapt to different sizes and types of cargo, making them a one-stop solution for a variety of logistical needs.

This flexibility also extends to the ability to operate on different routes and conditions, from transoceanic crossings to shorter, more frequent routes between nearby ports.

Space Optimisation

Ro-Ro ships are designed to maximise the use of available space. With adjustable decks and the ability to reconfigure spaces depending on the specific cargo, these vessels can transport a large number of vehicles and goods efficiently.

This optimisation of space not only increases the cost-effectiveness per trip, it also contributes to reducing environmental impact per transported load, allowing more goods to be moved in fewer trips.

Adaptability to Evolving Markets

Ro-Ro ships adapt well to market fluctuations and changing transport demands.

In a world where logistical efficiency is more crucial than ever, the ability of these vessels to adjust quickly to different cargoes and markets makes them particularly valuable.

In addition, with the growing concern about emissions and sustainability in shipping, Ro-Ro vessels are now being used as a means of transport continue to innovate in fuel efficiency and emissions reduction, ensuring its long-term relevance in the global supply chain.

These advantages position Ro-Ro ships as leaders in the maritime transport sector, offering effective and safe solutions that respond not only to the economic but also to the environmental and social needs of globalised transport.

Let’s resolve some questions…

What types of cargo can be carried on a Ro-Ro ship?

Ro-Ro vessels are designed to transport any vehicle or goods that can move on wheels, including cars, trucks, heavy machinery, and more.

Are Ro-Ro ships more expensive than other types of ships?

Although the initial investment in a Ro-Ro vessel may be higher due to its specialised design, operating costs are usually lower due to the speed and efficiency of loading and unloading, which can offset the initial expense in the long run.

Where do Ro-Ro ships mainly operate?

Ro-Ro vessels are especially prevalent on transoceanic and short routes where speed and frequency of operations are crucial, such as in Europe, North America and on routes between Asia and Australia.


Ro-Ro ships are a critical piece of the global shipping puzzle. Its ability to transport efficiently and secure a wide range of vehicles and roll-on/roll-off loads makes them an invaluable option for the logistics industry.

At Interseas we maintain relationships with shipping companies which use this type of vessel for the transport of wheeled cargoes, as is the case with Baleària or Naviera Armas, among others. If you need advice about transporting any cargo on wheels, we can advise you in an efficient and personalised way.

As global trade continues to expand, the relevance and dependence on Ro-Ro vessels is likely to increase, underlining their importance in the global supply chain.

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