In logistics, a Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) ship is a type of cargo vessel used to transport wheeled products. These include cars, trucks, buses and trailers and large non-wheeled products placed on wheeled handling equipment.
Cargo is driven or rolled onto and off the ship via built-in ramps at the stern and sides of the vessel. They are then safely fastened to the decking by heavy-duty straps. On average, it takes about 24 hours to load a RoRo ship to its full capacity of about 5,000 vehicles.
In contrast, Lift-on/Lift-off (LoLo) ships are cargo vessels used in bulk vehicle shipments that load and unload their cargo using onboard cranes.
While the shipping industry typically measures cargo vessels in tonnes, RoRo cargo is usually measured in lanes in meters (LIMs). This is calculated by multiplying the cargo length (meters) by the width in lanes and the ship’s number of decks.
Types of RoRo
1. Pure Car Carrier (PCC)
A PCC is a type of RoRo that is designed to carry cars only. Similar to a typical RoRo, a PCC ship contains decks full of parking spaces for efficient and safe storage of cars during shipping. In sea freight, large shipments of new automobiles are usually delivered via this vessel.
2. Pure Car/Truck Carrier (PCTC)
A PCTC is similar to a PCC, and only carries cars, trucks and other forms of four-wheeled vehicles. While it has decks solely dedicated to carrying cars, it also contains the following features:
- Decks that can be adjusted in height to increase vertical clearance
- Heavier decks for cargo classified as “high-and-heavy”
A hybrid of a container vessel and a RoRo ship, the ConRo/RoCon stores vehicles in below-deck areas, while stacking containerized cargo on the upper decks. There are ramp systems inside the ship that keep automobiles separated from the other types of cargo.
4. Roll-on/Lift-off (RoLo)
A hybrid of RoRo and LoLo, RoLo ships feature both ramps and cranes that can be used to load goods by driving or rolling them onto the decks or by lifting them onto the vessel.
5. Roll-on/Roll-off Passenger (RoPax)
A RoPax is a type of RoRo that is designed to transport both freight vehicles as well as passengers. A ferry that carries passengers and features Roll-on/Roll-off car decks can thus technically be considered as a RoPax ship.
Advantages of RoRo
- Fast loading and unloading
As cargo is rolled on and off RoRo vessels, loading and unloading times are vastly shorter than that of LoLo vessels, which use cranes to individually lift cargo onto and off ships. RoRo shipping is thus a more time-efficient way for manufacturers to get their shipments to and from ports.
- Safe loading and unloading
RoRo vessels are more likely to load and unload your cargo safely, as compared to LoLo vessels. As cargo on RoRo ships does not need to be lifted by crane, there is a lower risk of causing damage to your cargo during the loading and unloading process.
- Great for heavy-duty vehicles
Due to its design, RoRo vessels are great for transporting heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks and buses that are too large to transport using shipping containers.
Disadvantages of RoRo
- Fewer shipping destinations
As RoRo ships require deep sea ports, not every country can accommodate this type of vessel. This may be a hassle when planning sea freight shipping routes.
However, engaging the services of a freight forwarder may help ease the process of planning tedious routes such as these.
- Higher carbon footprint
As vehicles are driven on and off RoRo vessels, it leaves a larger carbon footprint than loading and unloading a LoLo vessel using a crane.
- Slower than container shipment
When shipping vehicles in low quantities (1 to 4 automobiles) for personal use or otherwise, container shipment is a faster alternative to RoRo shipment, and poses a lower risk of damaging your vehicles.