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What types of vessels for professional use exist in maritime transport?

Over the last century, the evolution of international goods transport and the improvement of ships for other types of uses has been enormous. Despite the striking that large vessels such as containerships or supertankers might be, there is a wide range of vessels for different usages.

In this present article from the SYM Naval blog we are pleased to present the different types of vessels for professional use that operate in maritime transport, as well as their main characteristic or differentiation.


Types of cargo ships for the international transport of goods

General cargo vessels

It is the most elementary cargo ship, also known as a multipurpose ship. This vessels can carry a huge variety of goods, both dry and irregular, but they are not suitable for containers.

Bulk carriers

Bulk carrier vessels are used to transport loose cargo such as grains, cement or minerals, among others. Some of these vessels are prepared to transport bulk cargo and their greatest advantage is versatility, as they can supply different purposes for sea transport.


Intended for the transport of containers as the name implies, they are the most used vessels in maritime trade.

Roll-on Roll-off

Also known by their acronym Ro-Ro, these are cargo ships that transport wheeled vehicles, from automobiles to trailers for long-distance trips. They have a gate in the bow or stern (or on both sides), which acts as a ramp to load and unload the vehicles.

Refeer ships

These vessels are thermally conditioned ships used for the transport of mainly fruits and vegetables. They are able to navigate at higher speeds given the perishable element of their merchandise.

Oil tankers

Responsible for transporting oil these vessels can accommodate up to two million barrels. Given the characteristics of their commodity and due to their large size, some oil tankers must dock at sea.


A supertanker is widely considered the oil tanker big brother considering their greater load capacity.

Liquefied gas carriers

Taking into account the characteristics of their commodity, liquefied gas carriers have a series of spherical tanks on their deck where liquefied natural gas is stored.

Chemical carriers

Similar to oil tankers although of smaller dimensions, chemical carriers are destined to the transport of chemical loads.

Livestock carriers

Ships used for the transport of living animals are adapted with ventilation systems and have areas enabled for food and water.

Heavy-lift cargo vessels

These are vessels designed to carry especially heavy or bulky goods such as other type or ships or machinery components.

Semi-submersible vessels

A semi-submersible heavy lift vessel (or Flo-Flo, Float-on Float-off vessel) is used to transport large cargoes that cannot be transported on conventional cargo ships (oil rigs, barges, other ships, etc.). Their peculiar feature is the ability to submerge partially to mount the load and then emerge by emptying its ballast tanks.


Types of vessels for maritime maneuvers


A maritime dredger is a vessel which incorporates an extractor machine dedicated to remove any material from the seabed for various purposes. Its characteristics and dimensions always depend on the requirements of each work in which they must intervene.

Logistic support vessels

Also known as supply vessels, they are auxiliary vessels capable of transporting fuel, drinking water, spare parts, food, ammunition and medicines so that the fleet they accompany can stay longer without docking at any port.


The main function of tugboats is to help in the maneuver of other ships, mainly to throw or push vessels in port or open sea. They are also used to tow barges, broken ships or other floating artifacts.

Cable laying vessels

Cable layer ships are specialized in laying the lines and repairing submarine or electric power communication cables.

Military vessels

Military, naval or war ships are vessels designed to function in a warlike confrontation. They carry weapon systems and their structure is reinforced to tolerate possible attacks.


Other ships for professional use


Generally covering short distances linking two points carrying passengers and vehicles, ferryboats operate usually at scheduled times.

Waterway vessels

Also known as river transport vessels, these vessels are designed for the transportation of goods, passengers and other operations in rivers with optimal depths for each work.


These passenger ships are used for recreational trips where they include different stops. Frequently, these stops or ports of call are part of the experience for cruise passengers.

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