Cargo ships are often the lifeline of many areas around the world. Each carrying hundreds of thousands of pounds of food and supplies, these ships are also known to carry larger items like machine parts or cars. However, not all cargo ships are alike. Each outfitted with specific qualifications, cargo ships are more than just a vessel that goes from A to B, they travel in rough waters and often house a crew of a few dozen.
Here are some of the most popular cargo vessels used in shipping today:
The container ship was created in the 1960s when ports started combining both land and sea routes to get to destinations. However, due to the enormous size of the containers, container ships can only land at ports specially equipped to handle the loading and unloading procedures. Some of the largest container ships in the world are approximately 1312 feet (400 meters) and can carry an upwards of 21,000 TEU, which stands for Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit. For container ships, this unit of measurement is essential, as containers are approximately 20 feet, and are allowed a maximum weight of 67,200 pounds.
Interestingly, large container vessels can often go quite fast across open water. Many container ships can travel around 24 knots, which is about 28 mph, in comparison to many bulk carriers that only travel at approximately 12-15 knots.
With giant globe-like structures, tanker ships house and transport liquids from long distances. Not surprisingly, tanker ships transport oil internationally from places like Alaska. Crude tankers move crude oil from its original extraction point to oil refineries around the world, while product tankers are much smaller and move refined petroleum to the general markets. Tanker ships are known to carry 2.0 billion metric tons of oil a year.
Other types of oil tankers are called gas carriers, which specialize in storing liquid natural gas and liquid petroleum gas.
Reefer ships transport food and perishable goods that must be kept in very low temperatures. Specific to Alaska, these are utilized in the commercial fishing industry to transport seafood around the US and beyond. Reefer ships also move commodities such as meat, fruit, vegetables, and dairy. Refrigerated containers often store perishable items in special 20-foot container units.
Developed in the 1950s, Bulk carriers transport loads in bulk. Unlike other cargo shipped in different containers, bulk vessels carry large loads of grains, blocks of cement, or minerals. These vessels must remain watertight; otherwise, leakage could affect a lot of the load.
When unloading the bulk carriers, a spoon-shaped crane will come in and take the loads off the deck. There are many types of bulk carriers, but some of the largest ones can carry up to 400,000 DWT (deadweight tonnage).
Though not all are listed, numerous other types of shipping vessels get goods to companies or consumers across the globe. The list of things that need to be shipped across vast expanses of sea changes from year to year, as the demands of different commodities change depending on needs in the current markets. From multi-purpose ships to barge carriers, each ship has it’s own unique purpose as it travels across the ocean blue.