Shipping Vehicles by Sea – The Basics of RORO Vessels

With the growing trend towards shipping vehicles by sea, you may be wondering, how is it done, what is a car transport vessel and how does the whole process work?

In this article, we’ll help you understand a little more about RORO (Roll on Roll off) ships, how they work, why they’re used, and everything else you need to know about shipping vehicles by sea. 

What Is A Car Transport Vessel?

Shipping vehicles by sea usually involves the use of a ship specifically designed for vehicle transport known as a “RORO” vessel.

RORO stands for Roll On, Roll Off and is a term is used to describe how the vehicles are loaded onto the ship.

Unlike standard container ships, RORO vessels have large internal holds that look like parking garages. Vehicles are simply driven or “rolled” onto the ship at their departure point, then driven or “rolled” off when they arrive at the destination. 

Their first use of a RORO vessel for shipping vehicles by sea was in the early 1960s, with the first cargo ships built exclusively to support car transportation coming into widespread use in the late 1970s.

Today, RORO shipping is the most widely-used transport methods for all sorts of wheeled vehicles. 

RORO shipping is not only cars, but also trucks, semi-trucks, heavy duty wheeled and tracked construction equipment, utility vehicles, truck trailers, agricultural equipment, and anything else that can be driven or towed on-board and will fit into the cargo hold of a RORO vessel.

In most cases, shipping vehicles by sea is more efficient and up to 40%-60% less expensive when compared to rail or line haul (truck) services. In some cases, particularly when transporting between east and west cost, they can also be quicker.

Can Cars Be Transported On Cargo Container Ships?

Yes they can.

Standard 20-foot and 40-foot cargo containers can hold most cars. They can also be equipped with straps and tie-downs to keep your car safe while shipping.

Shipping cars by container is generally more common for people who are permanently moving to a new location (interstate or overseas). This is because household goods can also be shipped in the same container.

However, if you’re only moving the vehicle, it doesn’t make as much sense to use a cargo ship and containerised shipping. It will take longer to ship your car and it may cost more money when compared to shipping your vehicle using a RORO car transport vessel. 

I’ve been told that Shipping Vehicles by Sea is Friendlier to the Environment. Is this true?

It certainly is.

Improvements in energy consumption of sea-going vessels means that sea transport is considerably more climate and environment friendly than road or rail transport.

In fact, according to an Australian Government Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities from March 2018, “Coastal shipping has the potential to grow its share of the national transport system in order to meet the growing transport task efficiently, effectively, safely and with the least impact on the environment of all modes of transport.”

Which Companies Offer Vehicle Shipping by Sea?

There are several companies specifically focus on shipping vehicles by sea with services ranging from international shipping to domestic coastal shipping services.

Do I Still Need a Traditional Trucking Company if I’m Shipping a Vehicle by Sea? 

That depends on your location.

If you live near the port where your car will be shipped, you can drive it there and drop it off yourself. Similarly, if the destination port is easily accessible, you can simply pick it up there when it’s been unloaded and processed, and drive it to your destination. 

However, if you are not located near either port, you may need to hire a car transport truck to pick up your car and take it to the port – or to pick it up at your destination and deliver it to your new residence. 

When requesting a quote, our service providers will provide you with comprehensive pricing that incorporates both pricing to the nearest terminal or depot or a full service pricing the incorporates pickup and delivery to a residence or other location.

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