Roll-on/roll-off or roro ships are vessels designed to carry wheeled frieght such as automobiles, vehicles, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers, and railroad cars, that are driven on and off the ship on their own wheels. This is in contrast to lift-on/lift-off or Lolo vessels, which use a crane to load and unload cargo.
RORO vessels have built-in ramps that allow the cargo to be efficiently rolled on and off the vessel when in port. While smaller ferries that operate across rivers and other short distances often have built-in ramps, the term RORO is generally reserved for larger oceangoing vessels. The ramps and doors may be stern-only, or bow and stern for quick loading.
Since 1970 the market for exporting and importing cars has increased dramatically and the number and type of ROROs has increased also. In 1973, Japan’s K Line built the European Highway, the first pure car carrier (PCC), which carried 4,200 automobiles. Today’s pure car carriers and their close cousins, the pure car/truck carrier (PCTC) are distinctive ships with a box-like superstructure running the entire length and breadth of the hull, fully enclosing the cargo. They typically have a stern ramp and a side ramp for dual loading of thousands of vehicles for shipping (such as cars, trucks, heavy machineries, tracked units, Mafi trailers, and loose statics), and extensive automatic fire control systems.
The PCTC has liftable decks to increase vertical clearance, as well as heavier decks for “high-and-heavy” cargo. A 6,500-unit car ship with 12 decks can have three decks, which can take cargo up to 150 short tons (136 t; 134 long tons) with liftable panels to increase clearance from 1.7 to 6.7 m (5 ft 7 in to 21 ft 10 in) on some decks. Lifting decks to accommodate higher cargo reduces the total capacity.
With the building of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics’s 8,000-CEU car carrier Faust out of Stockholm in June 2007 car carriers entered a new era of the large car and truck carrier (LCTC). Currently, the largest are Wilh. Wilhelmsen’s “Mark V” car-ships, led by MV Tønsberg.
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