Types of vessels

There are many different types of ships that vary for example in size, in the type of cargo that they carry and in the waterways on which they navigate. Therefore, no ship is the same; each and every one of them is unique. Nevertheless, various types of ships can be distinguished. With a view to the types of cargo, inland shipping has six types of vessels:

Of all the various vessels, so-called pushed barges are also available. Pushed barges have no means of mechanical propulsion of their own. For dry cargo, a number of towed barges are still operational that often serve as floating storage vessels.

View here the drawings of the various vessel types and their characteristics.

Dry-cargo carrier

These ships transport break bulk or dry bulk in their holds. Examples of dry bulk are grain, ore, coal or fodder. Dry-cargo carriers often have large “hatches” that secure the hold and thus keep the cargo dry. Nowadays some dry cargo ships are specially designed for the sole purpose of transporting containers. They have a height-adjustable wheelhouse for example, which allows optimum visibility over the highly stacked containers. Dry cargo ships are extremely versatile and have numerous transportation possibilities. They are, therefore, the most common example of all inland vessels.

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Well barges

Well barges generally transport sand ballast or dredged materials. These vessels are loaded by a suction dredger or by means of their own suction pipe. They are constructed in such a way that water, which is pumped in with the load, is drained off without fear of the ship sinking.

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Tank vessels

Certainly 80% of all hazardous (‘wet’) materials is transported by water via tank vessels. This is much safer than by train or lorry, because these types of transport often have to travel through urban areas in order to reach their destination. Moreover, tank vessels are often fitted with double hulls and have to meet stringent requirements. Double hulls are tested in practice for the purpose of preventing cargo leakage in the event of a collision.

Tank vessels can carry various types of cargo such as liquids, gases and powder-form products. There are four types of tank ships: type N (normal), type C (chemical), type G (gas) and powder tankers.

  • Type Normal (N)
    These are the traditional tank vessels. They mostly transport the diesel and petrol that we use to run our cars but they also transport other petroleum distillates or edible oils. In the latter case, the tanks are then made of stainless steel.

  • Type Chemical (C)
    These tankers have storage tanks made of stainless steel for carrying heavy chemicals such as phenol and hydrochloric acid etc. These are also the type of tankers with the highest safety standards.
    Some tankers have separate cargo tanks that are coated with a special protective layer.  These vessels mostly carry benzene, cyclohexane and naphtha. They have double hulls to prevent the cargo from leaking in case of a collision.

  • Type Gas (G)
    These vessels are often fabricated with triple hulls. In addition to the double hulls on chemical tankers, these ships are equipped with separate circular tanks.  Circular tanks are the strongest possible construction, which is necessary because gases have the property to become liquid when transported under pressure. Gas tankers are extremely strong and are thus the safest mode of transport.

  • Powder tanker
    These tankers can unload their cargo using pneumatic pumps (through air pressure), because many powders have the property to become liquid under a certain pressure. Many of these types of ships transport cement, but also fly ash and even flour.

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Push and tug boats

Push boats are placed behind so-called pushed barges as a means of propulsion, because pushed barges cannot navigate independently. The push boat is actually rather like a floating engine room with full crew accommodation and a wheelhouse. A push boat hooked up to a pushed barge is known as a pushing unit. It can handle up to a maximum of 6 pushed barges, giving the pushing unit a total length of 200 metres. However, in practice only 2 or 3 barges are navigated. Practically anything can be transported in the hold of a pushed barge: bulk cargo such as ore, coal or grain, but also containers. The type of cargo partly depends on whether the pushed barge has a hatch cover.
Tug boats are used for towing vessels such as barges, pontoons, dredgers, elevators and floating cranes. They also assist sea-going vessels and pushing units.
Small push boats often also have a tow installation. 

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Passenger ships

Passenger ships are used to transport people and include hotel cruise ships, day passenger vessels (party and canal cruise companies) and ferry services. An average passenger vessel has a capacity of around 100 passengers. Typical examples are the vessels used for the well-known Rhine cruises. 

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Ro-ro ships

A roll-on roll-off ship, or ro-ro ship, has a ramp which is specifically designed to take all kinds of rolling cargo on board, such as new cars and vans, lorries but also tractors or army vehicles for example.


Career Event tijdens de vakbeurs Maritime Industry in Gorinchem
Donderdag 22 maart 2018 - Tijdens de vakbeurs Maritime Industry, die gehouden zal worden op 29, 30 en 31 mei aanstaande, in de Evenementenhal in Gorinchem, zal de derde beursdag met het Career Event wederom in het teken van de carri?remogelijkheden in de binnenvaart staan.
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