Roll-on/roll-off (RORO or ro-ro) ships are vessels designed to carry wheeled cargo, such as cars, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers, and railroad cars, that are driven on and off the ship on their own wheels or using a platform vehicle, such as a self-propelled modular transporter.
RORO cargo also consists of oversized cargo loaded on special flatbed, mafi or lowboy trailers. New or used automobiles that are transported by ship are often moved on a large type of RORO called a Pure Car Carrier (PCC) or Pure Car Truck Carrier (PCTC). RoRo, or roll-on roll-off, provides a simple and cost effective means to move freight.
Advantages of RORO
RORO is the simplest and cheapest method of shipping for vehicles. Vehicles are driven directly onto the RORO vessel and secured to the car decks. They are securely inside the vessel, wind-and-watertight. It is important to note that one cannot ship personal effects using this method, but spare tire and factory fitted accessories are allowed.
RORO overseas shipping is a very popular way of transporting cargo to other countries. The idea was created and developed by the Japanese car manufacturers to ship their cars to USA and Europe in a fast and efficient manner by using specialised ships called “vehicle carriers”.
Nowadays RORO carriers can handle not just cars but all types of motorised, rolling and even static cargo: trucks, boats, buses, motor homes, travel trailers, tractors, excavators, cranes, and other high and heavy equipment and machinery.
Why is RORO Popular today
International RORO shipping is popular with exporters and importers mainly for two reasons: cost and efficiency. The cargo is simply “rolled on” the vessel at the port of loading and “rolled off” the vessel at the overseas destination. Everything is handled by the port workers. There is no need to hire and pay export warehouse for crating, container packing, flat rack loading, port delivery, etc. This really helps in keeping the cost of international shipping down.
Shipping via RORO service from the U.S. can be arranged from the major ocean ports: New York, Baltimore, Charleston, Jacksonville, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Galveston, and Los Angeles. Overseas destinations include major ports in Western Europe, Mediterranean, Africa, Asia, Australia & New Zealand, Central America and South America.
For the shipper, the advantage is speed. Since cars and lorries can drive straight on to the ship at one port and then drive off at the other port within a few minutes of the ship docking, it saves a lot of time for the shipper. It can also integrate well with other transport development, such as containers. The use of Customs-sealed units has enabled frontiers to be crossed with minimum delay. Therefore, it increases the speed and efficiency for the shipper.
Variations of RoRo Ship
ROPAX is an acronym for roll on/roll off passenger. It is a ro-ro vessel built for freight vehicle transport with passenger accommodation.
The ConRo vessel is a hybrid between a ro-ro and a container ship. This type of vessel uses the area below the decks for vehicle storage while stacking containerised freight on the top of the decks.
RoLo is an acronym for roll-on lift-off vessel. It is also a hybrid vessel type with ramps serving vehicle decks but the other cargo decks are accessible only by crane.
Biggest RORO Ships
The largest ro-ro passenger ferry is MS Color Magic. It weighs 75,100 GT (Gross Ton). It entered service in September 2007 for Color Line. It was built in Finland by Aker Finnyards. The ferry is 223.70 m long, 35 m wide and can carry 550 cars as well as 1270 lane meters of cargo.
The ro-ro passenger ferry with the greatest car-carrying capacity is the Ulysses. The ferry was named after a novel by James Joyce and is owned by Irish Ferries. It entered service on 25 March 2001 and operates between Dublin and Holyhead. It weighs 50,938 GT and is 209.02 m long and 31.84 m wide. It can carry 1342 cars and 4101 lane meters of cargo.
RORO vs Container Shipping – An Analogy
When it comes to automobile shipping, there are two main options. One can ship vehicles in a container or ship via Roll On Roll Off (RORO). But which option is better?
Both options can be used for car, motorcycle, truck, or any other vehicle that needs to ship internationally. It is important to know that all vehicles are securely blocked, braced, and tied down ensuring absolute security during transportation. But there is a mark in favour of container shipping for vehicles. That is broader shipping options.
Auto shipping requires a little bit more paperwork than some other types of cargo when you are shipping internationally. The only problem with RORO shipping is geographical coverage. While RORO transportation does have global routes, it is still not as all-encompassing as container shipping. Some smaller countries may not even have any options for international RORO transport. However, container shipping can get the transporter pretty much anywhere around the globe.
(References: www.shipit.com, www.wcscargo.com, www.marineinsight.com)
Sea News Feature, April 16