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20 Different Types of Ships and Their Functions [Images] PDF

In this article, you will learn what are different types of ships and how they work? explained with pictures

If you need this article in PDF form, you can download it at the end.

What is a Ship?

A ship is a large vessel that travels the world’s oceans and other sufficiently deep waterways, carrying cargo or passengers or supporting specialized missions such as defense, research, and fishing.

Ships are generally determined from boats based on size, shape, load capacity, and purpose. Currently, more than 50,000+ ships are in operation worldwide, doing business around the world and carrying 90% of all the goods, commodities, and products that people need.

Today’s ships are highly sophisticated, in the form of navigation-controlled bridges and big engine rooms for the machinery that powers the vessel. Cargo ships have relatively small units, while cruise ships have a large number of units to assist the passengers.

Modern maritime commercial vessels come in different shapes and sizes and are designed to carry a wide variety of cargo. Apart from this, there are other ships about which people are not aware. To understand all this, the main types of ships and their functions are briefly described in this article. Come on, let’s begin.

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Types of Ships

Following are the main types of ships that are travel worldwide:

  1. Bulk carrier ships
  2. Container ships
  3. Dredgers 
  4. Fishing vessels
  5. Gas carriers
  6. High-speed craft
  7. Naval ships
  8. Offshore ships
  9. Passenger ships
  10. Roll-on Roll-Off ships
  11. Livestock carriers
  12. Heavy life ships
  13. Tanker ships
  14. Tugs
  15. Canoe
  16. Yacht
  17. Hovercraft
  18. Submarine
  19. Sailboat
  20. Barge

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#1 Bulk Carrier Ships

Bulk Carrier Ships
Image: Pixabay.com

Bulk carriers are merchant ships used to transport dry cargoes such as grain, coal, ore, steel coils, cement, etc., in bulk quantities. The first special bulk carriers were built in 1852. Bulk carriers are known for their maximum capacity, safety, efficiency, and durability.

Despite this, cargo loading operations can vary, and loading and unloading cargo can take several days. Bulk carriers may be gearless, rely on terminal equipment, or sometimes fitted with a crane integral to the ship. Nowadays, bulk carriers make up 21% of the world’s merchant fleet and are available in size, from single-hold mini-bulk carriers to giant ore ships.

#2 Container Ships

Container Ships
Image: Flickr.com

As the name suggests, these types of ships are specially designed to transport goods in containers. Container ships carry all their loads in truck-sized intermodal containers in a technique called containerization.

These are the standard means of commercial cargo transport and now carry most marine non-bulk cargo. Generally, these ships are automated and load and unload with gantry cranes. Currently, 90% of non-bulk goods worldwide are transported by container ships. The rival crude oil tanker is now the most significant commercial type of container ship.

#3 Dredgers

Image: PxHere.com

The primary function of a dredger is to remove deposited sediments such as sand, silt, or gravel from inlet streams, waterways, or the ocean floor. Simply put, these are ships containing excavation equipment that are used to remove sand and other types of deposits from the ocean floor.

These ships are used for many purposes, such as navigating shallow coastal areas, deep-sea mining, etc. Common types of dredgers include simple jet-lift and air-lift, auger suction, pneumatic and amphibious dredgers.

# 4 Finishing Vessels

Finishing Vessels

As the name implies, a fishing vessel is used for fishing at sea or on a lake or river. A fishing vessel uses a conical net that traps fish by dragging it through or down the water. There are many different types and are used in commercial, artistic, and recreational fishing.

The total number of fishing vessels in the world in 2016 was approximately 4.6 million. It is difficult to estimate as they range in size from small dinghies to large charter cruisers and, unlike commercial fishing vessels, are often not dedicated solely to fishing. Fishing vessels are mainly classified into two types which are trawlers and non-traveling vessels.

#5 Gas Carriers

Gas Carriers
Image: Wikipedia.org

A gas carrier, also known as an LPG, or LNG carrier, is a vessel designed to transport LPG, LNG, CNG, or liquefied chemical gases in bulk. They are built to move liquefied gases at low-temperature pressure between terminals equipped with fully refrigerated storage tanks. Their great feature is the presence of round tanks above the main deck.

LNG gas carriers differ markedly in that they have large circular tanks on their deck. They are available in 4 different types of tanks: independent tank, membrane tank, integral tank, and semi membrane tank. On the other hand, chemical cargo ships have multiple tanks to protect them from mixing the different substances they carry.

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#6 High-Speed Craft

High-Speed Craft

High-speed craft uses air pressure to move at high speed over water and has engines and turbine propellers to move them. These ships were trendy from the time they were launched and still maintain their popularity.

These types of ships are advanced, high-performance (usually high-speed) marine vessels designed for civilian use, also known as a fast yachts. Most of these technologies are not used in commercial ships. Mainly high-speed crafts serve as passenger ferries.

#7 Naval Ships

Naval Ships

It is a military ship used by the navy. Naval ships are large, heavily armed surface ships primarily designed to engage enemy forces on the high seas, including various types of battleships, destroyers, and corvettes.

These are differentiated from civilian ships by construction and purpose. These ships are damage resistant and equipped with weapon systems, although the armament on military transport is light or non-existent. They were designed primarily for naval warfare and are called warships.

#8 Offshore Ships

Offshore Ships

Offshore ships are mainly used for oil exploration and construction at sea. There are many types of offshore vessels. In addition, these ships provide transit and respite to crew personnel to and from the operational areas of the high seas when required.

As noted above, the term offshore vessels is a collective context and include a wide range of vessels employed in the region of the high seas. These ships are usually 50 to 100 meters (160 to 330 ft) in length and perform various tasks such as logistic support and transportation of goods, equipment, and equipment.

#9 Passenger Ships

Passenger Ships

Passenger ships are also known as cruise ships primarily for transferring passengers from one place to another. Unlike the seaplanes used for transportation, cruise ships are usually used for round-trip voyages to various ports, where passengers can go on tours.

Modern types of passenger ships have less hull strength, speed, and agility than seagoing ships. Although they have added facilities to cater to water tourists, recent ships have been described as “floating condominiums laden with balconies”. Generally, cruise ships do two to three nights or more round trips without visiting any port.

#10 Roll-on Roll-Off Ships

Roll-on Roll-Off Ships

Roll-on roll-off ships are types of ships that are used to carry wheeled cargo. Wheeled cargo is nothing other than cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, and railroad cars that are driven on and off a ship, either on their wheels or using a platform vehicle, such as Self-propelled modular transporter.

Roll-on roll-off ships contrast with lift-on/lift-off (LOLO) ships, which use cranes to load and unload cargo. RORO ships have either built-in or shore-based ramps or ferry slips that allow cargo to be rolled on and off the vessel efficiently. The word RORO is generally used for large ocean-going vessels.

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#11 Livestock Carriers

Livestock Carriers

A livestock carrier is a large vessel used for the live animal export of sheep, cattle, and goats. These types of ships are typically newly built or converted from container ships. When transporting livestock, adequate ventilation, food, and water are primary considerations.

Livestock carriers are needed to carry enough food for the animals during the journey and enough stock for emergencies. Common livestock carriers have a carrying capacity of about 30,000 to 40,000 sheep (or 3000 to 4000 head of cattle). Livestock carriers typically travel the Middle East between Australia and New Zealand.

#12 Heavy Lift Ships

Heavy Lift Ships

As the name suggests, a heavy-duty ship is a vessel designed to carry heavy industrial components that regular ships cannot handle. They are huge ships capable of carrying other ships, large industrial units, floating plants, etc.

For example, these ships transport offshore platforms from their construction sites to drilling sites. Some are equipped with high-capacity cranes for loading at ports without the bulky capacity. And some allow the cargo to float in position before the ship lifts the cargo out of the water.

#13 Tanker Ships

Tanker Ships

Tanker ships are designed to transport large amounts of stored liquids or gases. Tanker ships are further classified into different types based on the cargo they carry. The main types include oil tankers, chemical tankers, and gas carriers.

Apart from their applications, these ships also carry commodities such as vegetable oil, molasses, and alcohol. In the United States Navy, a tanker used to refuel other ships is called an oiler. Tankers can range in size from several hundred tons in capacity for long-distance transportation.

#14 Tugs


A tug is a marine vessel that operates other ships by pushing or pulling along a direct contact or tow line. These boats usually haul vessels that cannot sail well on their own, such as in crowded harbors or narrow canals.

Modern tugs are highly maneuverable, with pulling power that can exceed 100 tons. Early tug models had steam engines, while modern ones had diesel engines. Some types of tugs are sea-going, and some are icebreakers or rescue tugs. Many tugs carry deluge guns, aiding firefighting, especially harbors.

#15 Canoe


A canoe is a light vessel, usually pointed at both ends and opened from above. These are typically driven by one or more seated or kneeling paddlers facing the direction of travel and using single-blade paddles.

Currently, canoes are widely used for competition and pleasure, such as racing, whitewater, touring and camping, freestyle, and general entertainment. Most modern canoes are molded plastics or composites such as fiberglass or Kevlar or incorporating graphite. The intended use of canoes is determined by their size, length, and construction material.

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#16 Yacht


A yacht is a sailing or power vessel used for pleasure, cruising, or racing purposes. These types of ships have a cabin with facilities that are suitable for overnight use. The vessel is expected to be at least 33 feet (10 m) in length and may be judged to have good aesthetic qualities.

These are powered by electrical power, provided by a motor-driven alternator or a battery recharged by the motor. There are mainly two types of yachts available; Racing yachts are designed to emphasize performance over comfort, and charter boats are run as a for-profit business.

#17 Hovercraft


A hovercraft is a floating craft capable of traveling over land, water, mud, ice, and other surfaces. A hovercraft has a skirt to contain air. When the air blower is turned on, this skirt creates a pocket that traps pressurized air. That pressurized air gives a hovercraft lift to move forward.

Nowadays, they are used worldwide for disaster relief, Coast Guard, military, survey applications, and specialized transport for sport or passenger service. As the hovercraft rises above the surface, there is no friction between the skirt and the ground so that it can travel smoothly on the land.

#18 Submarine


A submarine, also known as a sub, is a vessel capable of independent operation underwater. This differs from a submersible, which has limited capability underwater. Submarines usually have large ballast tanks filled with air that help them float on the ocean’s surface.

At the top of the ballast tank are valves that are opened when the submarine is timed to submerge. Most large submarines have a cylindrical body with conical ends, usually located in the middle, which houses communication and sensing equipment as well as periscopes. Submarines include a wide range of types and capabilities.

#19 Sailboat


A sailboat is a boat that is partly or wholly propelled by sails and smaller than a sailing ship. The forces of the wind on the sail and the water on the underwater parts of the boat combine to propel the boat through the water.

When the wind blows across the sails, the aerodynamic lift is created, much like the wing of an airplane. Some sailboats have motor propellers, which help propel the sailboat even when there is no wind.

#20 Barge


A barge is a flat-bottomed boat that runs on a river and can transport bulk cargo. The barge can be self-propelled, usually with a slow-rotating diesel engine and a large-diameter fixed-pitch propeller.

Draft horses initially pulled the barges on an adjacent towpath. Some other types of barges must be pulled by tugs, or pushed by pusher boats. Compared to towed barges, the pusher system has improved handling and is more efficient, as the pushing tug becomes part of the unit, contributing to the movement of the whole.

Wrapping It Up

So now, I expect I’ve covered everything about “types of ships“. If you still have any doubts or questions on this topic, you can contact us or ask in the comments. If you like this article then please share it with your friends.

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