Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro-Ro) ships are designed to carry vehicles or other wheeled cargo. They were first developed in the 19th century to transport trains across rivers which were not yet spanned by suitable railway bridges. They are used today to transport military and civilian vehicles, and commercial cargo overseas.
Ro-Ro vessels are efficient for shipping vehicles, as the automobiles can be driven straight on and off via ramps, without the need for a lengthy loading process. A Ro-Ro ship can be solely for carrying cars and passengers, generally referred to as ferries or Pure Car Carriers. Some will also transport HGVs, and these can be known as Pure Truck & Car Carriers.
Ro-Ro cargo is not measured in metric tonnes as container cargo is, but in units called lanes in metres (LIMS). The LIM is calculated by multiplying cargo length in metres by the number of decks and by its width in lanes, Marine Insight explains.
Another variation of this type of vessel is the Roll-on/Lift-off (RoLo) ship. This ship has both ramps for wheeled vehicles, and cranes to lift heavier goods, such as plant machinery and equipment, on to some decks, as the ramps would not be strong enough to support the weight. Great care has to be taken with the weight distribution of these vessels.
Lift-on/Lift-off vessels (LoLo) are designed purely to carry heavy cargo which is loaded and unloaded via cranes. They can carry container goods, and also equipment that is too large or heavy for a container. LoLo vessels have the advantage of onboard built-in cranes, so if necessary, they can operate at docks with no dockside handing equipment.
LoLo ships are generally more cost-effective, and can handle greater loads than Ro-Ro vessels, so they are a more environmentally friendly way of transporting cargo.
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