The maritime transport is one of the most representative within the logistics sector. Sea transport is one of the most widely used means of transporting goods over long distances, and cargo ships are used for this purpose.

Cargo ships have been a fundamental part of world trade for centuries, transporting everything from foodstuffs to construction materials to heavy machinery.

These cargo ships are usually seen in ports around the world, and their design and characteristics vary according to the type of cargo they carry and the route they follow.

In this article, we will explore the different types of cargo ships and their distinctive features, as well as the largest cargo ship models today. Let’s get started!


What is a cargo ship or cargo vessel?

A cargo ship is a type of vessel specifically designed to transport goods and cargoes. These ships are vital to global trade, as they enable the efficient movement of goods across the world’s oceans and seas.

Cargo vessels can vary widely in size and shape, from small barges to huge container and bulk carriers. However, they all have common characteristics that make them ideal for transporting loads. For example, their design usually includes a large cargo hold or cargo space that allows for efficient and safe loading of goods.

In addition, cargo ships are often designed to be rugged and able to withstand adverse weather conditions. They can also be equipped with special cooling, ventilation and stabilization systems to ensure that goods are transported safely and without damage during the journey.

Overall, cargo ships are a crucial part of the global supply chain and will continue to be vital to world trade and the world economy in the future.


Difference between ship and vessel

There is often doubt about the concept of ship and vessel. There are a number of differences that allow us to identify which type of vessel we are in front of.

According to current legislation, a boat is a vessel with a minimum length of 2.5 meters, a very generic concept that can include many navigable elements.

On the other hand, a ship is a vessel with a length of 24 meters or more. They are usually merchant, military and large vessels.


Related content


General characteristics of cargo ships

Most maritime transportation is carried out on ships or cargo vessels, which are specially designed for the transportation of containers and have dimensions that allow them to handle and work with these elements.

Depending on the type of vessel we will find some characteristics or others, although there are some general characteristics shared by most cargo vessels.

Strong structure: Ships and cargo vessels are designed with a solid and sturdy structure to withstand maritime conditions and the cargo carried.

Warehouse or cargo space: They have ample cargo space suitable for storing and transporting different types of cargo, such as containers, bulk, roll-on/roll-off cargo or liquids.

Special stowage systems: Special stowage systems are used to secure cargo and prevent it from moving during navigation.

Ventilation and refrigeration system: Cargo vessels may have ventilation and refrigeration systems to keep cargo in optimal conditions and prevent cargo damage.

Navigation and safety equipment: All cargo vessels are equipped with navigation and safety systems, such as radar, GPS, navigation lights, life rafts, fire extinguishers, alarm systems, among others.

Energy efficiency: Modern cargo ships tend to be more energy efficient, using innovative technologies to reduce fuel consumption and reduce their environmental impact.


Types of cargo vessels

We will list the most common cargo vessel groups within the shipping industry:


Container ships

A container ship is a type of cargo vessel specifically designed to transport cargo containers. These vessels have a specialized structure for securing and transporting containers, which are large metal boxes used to transport a wide variety of products, from electronics and textiles to machinery and foodstuffs.

Container ships have a flat deck and a support structure that allows containers to be stacked on top of each other safely and efficiently. They are also equipped with fastening and lashing systems to secure the containers during transport.

The specialized design of container ships makes them highly efficient and cost-effective in transporting large volumes of cargo over long distances. Cargo vessel operators can also adjust the size and capacity of vessels to suit the specific needs of their customers and shipping routes.


Bulk Carrier

A Bulk Carrier is a type of cargo vessel designed to transport large quantities of bulk cargo, such as minerals, coal, grain, iron ore, cement, among other similar materials.

This type of vessel has a solid and strong structure with large holds to store bulk cargo. Cargo is poured into the holds through large hatches on deck and discharged by a system of cranes and conveyor belts at the port of destination.

Bulk carriers are usually large vessels, with a cargo capacity ranging from 10,000 to 400,000 tons. To avoid gas accumulation and prevent explosions, some of these vessels also have ventilation and refrigeration systems to keep the cargo in good condition.

Bulk cargo transportation in bulk carriers is one of the most economical ways to transport large volumes of cargo. Although this type of vessel is mainly used to transport bulk materials, some of them can also transport other types of cargo, such as containers or general cargo.



A tanker or oil tanker is a type of cargo vessel specifically designed to transport large quantities of bulk liquids, such as crude oil, gasoline, diesel, oils, chemicals and other similar products.

The design of a tanker includes large storage tanks for the liquid cargo, as well as piping systems, pumps and valves for loading and unloading the cargo. These vessels also have ventilation and gas elimination systems to prevent the accumulation of toxic and explosive gases.

The size of tankers varies from small vessels to huge ships capable of carrying hundreds of thousands of tons of liquid cargo. Due to the flammable and hazardous nature of many of the products they carry, tankers are subject to strict safety and environmental regulations.

Tankers are often used to transport liquid cargo from production sites to consumption sites around the world. To avoid pollution, tankers must comply with safety and environmental standards set by local authorities and international bodies.


Multipurpose vessels

A multipurpose vessel is a type of cargo vessel designed to carry a variety of different cargoes, including bulk cargo, roll-on/roll-off cargo and general cargo, in a single voyage. These vessels are designed to be versatile and adapt to a wide range of cargo needs and transportation requirements.

Multipurpose vessels have a solid and sturdy structure with large holds to store bulk cargo, as well as lashing and lashing systems to secure general cargo. They also usually have access ramps and crane systems to facilitate the loading and unloading of roll-on/roll-off cargo.

These vessels can transport a variety of different products, from heavy machinery and vehicles to bulk products such as grain, minerals and chemicals. Some multipurpose vessels can also carry containers and other general cargo, making them suitable for use on a wide range of trade routes and operations.

The versatility of multipurpose vessels makes them a popular choice for cargo vessel operators who need the flexibility to transport different types of cargo in a single voyage. These vessels can be adapted to the needs of a variety of sectors, from the energy industry and construction to agriculture and manufacturing.


Reefer vessels

A refrigerated cargo vessel is designed to transport perishable products that require a controlled temperature, such as fruits, vegetables, meat and fish.

These vessels are equipped with refrigerated chambers to maintain the proper temperature of the cargo during transport. In addition, they are equipped with temperature and humidity control systems to ensure that the cargo is kept in optimal storage and transport conditions.

Reefer cargo vessels may also include additional features to ensure cargo quality during transport, such as ventilation systems, air quality monitoring and atmosphere control.

The demand for reefer cargo vessels has increased in recent years due to the increase in global trade in perishable foods and the growing interest in fair trade and sustainable agriculture.


General cargo vessel

A general cargo vessel is a type of cargo vessel that is designed to carry a variety of different cargoes in a single voyage. Unlike specialized vessels, such as container ships or tankers, general cargo vessels are not designed for a specific type of cargo and can carry different types of cargo on the same voyage.

General cargo vessels have a more flexible structure and design to accommodate different types of cargo, and their cargo capacity is measured in metric tons. These vessels can transport a wide range of goods, such as manufactured products, machinery, construction materials, foodstuffs, chemicals, vehicles, among others.

General cargo ships usually have cargo holds, which are storage areas inside the ship where cargo is placed. These warehouses can be open or closed and are designed to accommodate different types of cargo.


Vessel Ro Ro

A Ro-Ro (Roll-on/Roll-off) vessel is a type of cargo vessel used primarily to transport vehicles, trucks and heavy machinery, although other types of roll-on/roll-off cargo can also be transported.

The main feature of a Ro-Ro vessel is that it has access ramps at both ends of the vessel that allow vehicles and roll-on/roll-off cargo to roll in and out of the vessel.

On a Ro-Ro vessel, vehicles and roll-on/roll-off cargo are loaded and unloaded directly on the vessel’s pontoon, making the process much faster and more efficient than on other types of cargo vessels.

Ro-Ro vessels also have large parking spaces for vehicles, as well as lashing and lashing systems to keep cargo secure during navigation.

In addition to their use for transporting vehicles and ro-ro cargo, some Ro-Ro vessels can also carry containerized cargo or other general cargo. These vessels are usually shorter and wider than other types of cargo vessels in order to accommodate the roll-on/roll-off cargo inside.


Largest cargo ships

As the cargo shipping industry continues to grow, cargo ships have become increasingly larger and more sophisticated to handle large quantities of cargo globally.

In this regard, there are several models of cargo vessels that have been designed and built with specific characteristics to meet different cargo transportation needs.

The following table shows some of the world’s largest cargo ship models, including their length, beam and deadweight ton (DWT) carrying capacity.


Model Length (meters) Beam (meters) Conveying capacity (DWT tons)
Barzan 400 58,6 199.744
Madrid Maersk 399 58,6 210.000
MSC Gülsün 400 62 232.618
HMM Algeciras 400 61 236.000
CMA CGM Jacques Saadé 400 61 236.580



ACROSS LOGISTICS, your reliable logistics partner

At Across Logistics we strive to be your trusted logistics partner, providing you with reliable and efficient freight forwarding solutions worldwide. Whether you need to transport goods by sea, air or land, we are here to offer you personalized services tailored to your needs.

We have a team of logistics experts with years of experience in managing freight shipments in different industries and sectors, which allows us to offer customized transportation solutions for any type of cargo. In addition, we ensure that we maintain transparent and constant communication with our customers at every stage of the shipping process to ensure that goods reach their final destination safely and on time.

At Across Logistics, we believe in the importance of building strong and lasting relationships with our customers, based on trust and satisfaction. That’s why we make sure that we are always there for you and provide you with the best possible customer service. If you are looking for a reliable logistics partner to handle your freight shipments, do not hesitate to contact us.