What is the Difference Between Vessel and Ship副本

What is the Difference Between Vessel and Ship? The Ultimate FAQ Guide

Information in this guide will help you compare vessel and ship.

It covers everything, from basic definition, features, and uses among other critical aspects about vessel and ship.

So, keep reading if you want to learn more.

What is a Vessel?

Generally, a water vessel widely refers to any watercraft that navigates the water bodies.

Therefore, according to this definition, a vessel would include all such machines, from boats to large ships.

Some users also appreciate a vessel as a craft used for water transportation and usually bigger or massive than a rowboat.

In addition to this, a vessel includes large boats and ships regardless of whether they are passenger or luggage types.



What is a Vessel’s Function?

Since the term “vessel” incorporates a wide variety of specific water automobiles, consequently, the vessels do have a wide range of functions as outlined below:

Passenger Transportation

Boats, large ships, ferries, etc., are efficient water transport modes for ferrying passengers/travelers across different water bordering places or venues.

These vessels would even transport passengers across countries and even continents.

Since time immemorial, even before world war I, colonialists used to ferry slaves from the African continent to the USA via large ships.

Moreover, engineers have greatly designed and developed modern large cruiser ships to transport passengers across various countries, borders, and cities to date.

Luggage Transportation

Also, vessels offer great flexibility and reliability in the transportation and delivery of goods across long distances especially cross country delivery.

Luggage transportation amongst countries and territories has been one of the most affordable transport modes for use by importers.

Volatile goods (crude oils), weaponry, clothes, house merchandise, electronics, containers, automobiles are just some of the typical goods often transported via vessels.

Extraction and Related Activities

Some vessels are significant in deep-sea mining and extraction activities in the ocean, seas, and lakes.

Specifically, dredging vessels are efficient at extracting sand and other marine deposits from the sea beds.

That form of activity is significant in enhancing the navigability of those specific areas.

Elsewhere, some other water vessels extract different types of minerals and valuable stones from the seabed.

Those precious minerals may include diamond, copper, gold, silver, zinc, cobalt, manganese, etc.

What is a Ship in Freight Terms?

A ship is an extensive water vessel that travels the oceans, seas, and deep waterways.

This type of water vessel moves while carrying either goods or passengers connecting continents, countries, etc.

In the modern maritime universe, the ships are significant in executing specialized missions, including mining, fishing, research, and defense.

However, in the olden sail age, a ship was renowned as a vessel with three or additional rigged masts.

Nevertheless, that definition does not hold since ships’ power generation has so far been developed to incorporate other energy forms rather than the sail and wind.

shipping freight terms

Shipping freight terms

What is the Difference Between a Vessel and a Ship?

As we noted earlier, a vessel is a general terminology that includes the sea-going crafts, which effectively navigate the waterways.

Vessels exist in different varieties depending majorly on sizes.

Small to medium sized vessels include boats and barges, its counterpart is the ships that are the larger type of vessels.

Therefore, we can refer to a ship as a large ocean navigating vessel that may use wind, steam power, or even other modern energy sources.

Whereas a vessel blanketly refers to any watercraft that floats which you can easily steer on its own or by use of other sources of energy.

Most prevalently, ships transport cargo majorly to earn revenue or income to the owners.

What Size is a Ship?

Ships are by far one of the largest water vessels.

They are bulky and also expansive in dimensions.

Specifically, the ship’s size dimensions depend on a few factors, including the operational route and purpose of the ship.

Moreover, the ship sizes also largely depend on the expected load-carrying capacity.

Similarly, the ships’ variation in sizes also depends on the capacity of the various harbors and ports.

Consequently, the ships exist in various types depending on dimensions.

This varieties include Panamax (427 meters long), Chinamax (360 meters long), Handymax (200 meters long), amongst others.

Nevertheless, considering all factors, a ship should weigh a minimum of 500 tonnes; anything below that cutpoint can well be considered a boat.

How is Cargo Ship Classified?

A cargo ship is a water vessel that navigates the seas, oceans, and large water bodies while transporting bulky goods and luggage from one seaport to another.

The cargo ships, commonly referred to as freighters, are responsible for all the sea freight cargo.

These cargo ships maybe classified into multiple classes according to the load types they deal in.

Below are the most common types of cargo:

classification of cargo ships

Classifications of cargo ships

Based on the Type of Cargo and Purpose;

General cargo ships; this type is a general merchandise ship that carries a wide range of general loads.

They are akin to container ships even though they do not deal in containerization.

To smoothen their operations, this type of cargo ships have inbuilt cranes that enhance their loading and offloading operations at the port.

Container ships; these types do transport freight in different sizes of ISO standard shipping containers.

Therefore, these containers have automated gantry cranes to load, unload and pack the intermodal containers inside the ships.

Undoubtedly, container ships contribute to almost half of the entire international freight transport.

Besides, they are conventionally vast and expansive, with a luggage capacity of a maximum of 19,224 TEU.


These are particular kinds of ships that transport liquids and gases in the marine world.

Every type is perfectly designed and tailored to transport specific types of liquids.

For instance, if you transport crude oil, then a specialized crude tanker would correctly do that.

Besides, the tankers have large capacities to handle a significant amount of liquids.

The crude carriers are further grouped into Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC) or Ultra Large crude Carriers (ULCC).

Elsewhere, if you deal in liquefied natural gases, then LNG carriers would be handy.

a tanker

A tanker

Bulk Carrier Ships

Bulk carriers are simply ships that deal in the bulky commodity.

They are also known as a bulk freighter.

The bulk carriers may fall into the following two distinct groups:

Dry bulk carriers; this type carries and ferry unpackaged bulky cargo consisting of grains, ore, and sugar. Etc.

Break bulkcarriers deal with packaged luggage such as cement, fertilizer, chemicals, powder, or manufactured items. Etc.

Unlike the container ships, these bulk carriers have ramps, conveyor belts, or pumps to load and unload the goods instead of the cranes.

a bulk carrier

A bulk carrier

Multi-Purpose Ships

As their name suggests, the multi-purpose ships carry and deal in a wide variety of cargo – no specific good.

This means that a single carrier may transport bulky steel, sugar, wood, paper rolls, cement, construction materials, and others.

These ships are mainly versatile and applicable for multiple purposes.

Besides, they are the most preferred carrier for many companies.

a multipurpose ship

A multipurpose ship

Reefer Ships

Reefer ships are another particular type that only transport commodities that have to be stored at a controlled frozen or regulated temperature.

Such freight includes perishables, vegetable produce, fish, meat, medications, etc.

Therefore, if you deal with temperature-sensitive goods, reefer ships are the best.

a reefer ship

Reefer ship

Based on the Sizes

The dimensional considerations of the cargo ships are length, weight, and width.

These dimensions would, in turn, affect their capability to fit in canals, pass via different water depths, or transit below bridges.

Another vital dimension of the ship is the DWT (Deadweight tonnage).

It refers to how much cargo a ship can safely carry, excluding the ship’s actual weight.

Hence, cargo ships are classified as follows:

Handymax –Smaller than 60000 DWT.

Handysize; 15000 – 35000 DWT.

Supramax; 50000 – 60000 DWT.

Panamax; 65000 – 85000 DWT. Largest sized ship to pass through Panama canal. However, its maximum weight can only be about 52,500 tons.

New Panamax; 120000 DWT.

Aframax; 120000 DWT

Suezmax; 160,000 DWT, largest sized ship that passes through the Suez canal.

Malacamax; maximum of 300,000 DWT and the largest ship that can securely pass through the Strait of Malacca.

Seawaymax; this is the most giant-sized ship that securely fit through the canal locks of st. Lawrence seaway.

They exist between 10000 to 60000 DWT.

Capesize; 150000 to 400000 DWT and passes through the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.

Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC); between 150000 – 320000 DWT.

ULCC (Ultra Large crude carrier); between 320000 to 550000 DWT.

What is the Difference Between Container and Vessel?

A container is an expansive metallic hollow box mostly used for carrying merchandise, luggage, goods, or any commodities while transiting in the water amongst ports.

The containers are especially most prevalent for ferrying goods in water transport and carried by water vessels.

On the flip side, a vessel refers to any watercraft that moves in the water while transporting goods, passengers, or other particular purposes.

A vessel effectively carries containers to aid in the packaging and shipment of the various types of cargo.

What are the Parts of a Vessel?

A vessel has got several parts.

However, all the parts are categorically classified into three most significant and general sections; the hull, navigation bridge, and engine room.

Despite that, the following are the primary parts of a vessel:

  • Accommodation
  • Anchor
  • Bow
  • Bow thrusters
  • Deck
  • Deck crane
  • Engine room
  • Forecastle
  • Funnel
  • Freeboard
  • Keel
  • Propeller
  • Navigation bridge
  • Rudder
  • Hull
  • Mast

parts of a vessel

Parts of a vessel

What is Shipping Vessel Meaning?

A shipping vessel is any watercraft that specializes in navigating through the waters while transporting cargo through ports and amongst countries.

Again, these kinds of vessels are fundamental in the trade industry, whether international or local trade.

shipping vessel

Shipping vessel

What is a Mother Vessel?

A mother vessel is a giant-sized watercraft, usually larger than a feeder vessel.

And due to their enormous sizes, the mother vessel only plies significant ports.

Besides, they have extra sizes to accommodate and carry thousands of tons of cargo, including containers.

Consequently, the mother vessels move through longer distances while transporting cargo.

mother vessel

Mother vessel

What is the Capacity of a Mother Vessel?

In terms of capacity, the mother vessels have an average capacity of about 10000 (TEUs).

Currently, some vessels have a capacity of a maximum 20,000 TEUs.

Apparently, with the rising level and improvement in manufacturing technology.

It is possible that some mother vessels would soon reach 25000 TEUs.

How Does a Mother Vessel Serve?

Due to their big sizes, mother vessels would reliably and efficiently serve similarly major/ big ports.

As such, these vessels would specifically traverse main ports.

What is a Feeder Vessel?

Feeder vessels are distinctively unique in two main perspectives.

Firstly, they are relatively smaller in size compared to the mother vessels.

Secondly, similar to its name, the feeder vessels are generally slow.

feeder ship

Feeder ship

How Does a Feeder Vessel Serve?

As their name suggests, the feeder vessels ply both smaller and major ports.

They do so by interlinking the cargo from smaller ports to significant ports shipped by the mother vessels for export purposes.

Similarly, they also complete cargo shipping from the major ports to smaller ports in importation cases.

What is the Difference Between the Mother Vessel and the Feeder Vessel?

Mother and feeder vessels are two worlds apart.

The three aspects of their difference focus on size, function, and capacity.

Firstly, Whereas mother vessels are vast and large, the feeder vessels are relatively small in size.

Secondly, the feeder vessels navigate through both the primary and minor ports to interlink the cargo for trade.

Finally, the mother vessels have a great capacity to store cargo upto 20000 TEUs while feeder vessels have a smaller maximum of 500 TEUs.

What is the Difference Between Ship and Steamer?

A steamer is a water vessel that navigates through the large water bodies; however, this vessel solely depends upon steam for propulsion.

So, therefore, the difference between the ship and steamer lies in the driving power.

Diesel is the most common source of energy for ships, whereas steam for the steamer.

Also, a steamer has a chimney for releasing the by-products from the engine.

Better still, a steamer is a general term that refers to a wide variety of vessels including steamboats, or steamships.

a steamer

A steamer

Is an Aircraft Carrier a Ship or a Boat?

An aircraft carrier is a ship, at least according to the US Navy.

According to the US Navy, every kind of commissioned surface vessel is considered a ship, from the large aircraft carriers to the tiny ones.

That is why the vessels have a pre-fix USS (United States Ship) in each of their names.

Better still, the aircraft carriers are large and, as such, are a typical sea-going airbase.

They have a ready flight deck and accessories for arming, carrying, recovering, and deploying aircraft.

Therefore an aircraft carrier is a warship.

an aircraft carrier

An aircraft carrier

Why is a Ship Transporting Goods Called a Vessel?

A vessel is a general term used to refer to all water-bound watercraft, and as such, a cargo ship (ship transporting goods) may well be referred to as a vessel.

What are the Different types of Tanker Ships?

We can broadly classify tanker ships into two categories, i.e., according to the goods carried and based on sizes.

According to the type of commodity:

  • Oil tanker – this tanker majorly carries crude oil together with its by-products.
  • Chemical carriers – this one transports chemicals and their corresponding products to different destinations.
  • Liquefied gas carriers – these gas tankers carry and transports in bulk the LPG, LNG, or liquid-based chemical gases.

Some other categories of tankers include wine tankers, juice tankers, etc.

According to sizes

Based on sizes, tankers are available in the following types:

  • VLCC
  • ULCC
  • Panamax
  • Aframax
  • Suezmax
  • Capsize
  • Handymax
  • Lighters
  • Handy

How Many types of Bulk Carriers are There?

A bulk carrier carries and transports a majority of dry, bulky cargo in huge quantities.

Such kinds of cargo are loose in design without any specific or pre-determined package.

The different varieties of bulk carriers include:

  • Gearless bulker
  • Lakers
  • Tramp bulker
  • Cargo liner
  • Geared bulker
  • Conventional bulker
  • Self-discharging bulker
  • BIBO

What are the Advantages of a Bulk Carrier Vessel?

Firstly, they ferry goods in bulk quantities over long distances.

Secondly, the bulk carriers can transport both dry cargoes e.g., grains, and break bulb cargo e.g., cement, timber, etc.

What are the Different Sizes of Container Ships?

Container ships can well be classified into seven basic categories, as outlined below:


their first entry was in 1980.

They have got a capacity range of between 3001 – 5100 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units).

Their length is about 965 ft.

These dimensions were so much tailored to enable them freely pass the Panama Canal.


The Suezmax ships have a capacity of 12000 TEUs.

They were designed to pass via the Suez canal and have a similar size to the Suez canal; breadth of about 50-57 m.


These types of containers were designed to have a substitute for the Panama Canal route.

They were most significantly cellular container vessel type.

Their capacity is about 6400 TEUs

Post Suezmax

These vessels’ dimensions are too big for the Suez canal, and so use an alternative route.

Post Suezmax vessels are the ultra-large type.

They have a capacity of about 18000 TEUs with a 60 m breadth and 21m drought.


The post-Malaccamax have got the maximum possible draught dimension of about 21m of the Malacca Strait.

They do not dock in any random ports due to their drought size except for the Singapore and Rotterdam ports.

What are the Energy Sources for Ships?

Different kinds of Ships utilize distinct categories of energy for propulsion.

Burning fossil fuels e.g., diesel, gas oil, and heavy oil, in the engine’s combustion chamber.

Wind – the wind’s kinetic energy is capable of propelling the ship to move in its direction.

Even though the wind is a source of energy, it can only propel a small-sized vessel to be a sole energy source.

Often, most shippers use wind as a substitute energy source or as a complement to other sources.

Steam is another energy source for driving the ships; they have to be accompanied by steam engines and a chimney.

wind and solar power for ships

Wind and solar power for ships

Is a Vessel the Same as a Boat?

No, a vessel is not a boat because it is a general term for describing the watercraft.

However, a boat is a water vessel, and as such, when listing the examples of vessels, we include a boat amongst others.

What are the Different Variations of a RoRo (Roll-on/ Roll-off) Ship?

A RoRo ship is a unique type of vessel with a ramp for loading and offloading cargo trailers into the shipping compartment.

To further enhance the cargo’s loading, you need a cargo trailer with wheels to drive the goods into the ship.

They further utilize several ramps for proper loading and unloading cargo.

There are a few variations of the RoRo ships, which comprises of:

Pure car carriers (PCC) and Pure Car Truck Carriers(PCTC); the former exclusively transports cars while the latter transports all kinds of vehicles.

ROPAX; This one is a Roll on/ Roll off a passenger ship.

The ship is a Ro-ro type designed for freight vehicle shipping together with passenger housing.

However, the ship is only limited to short sea transport.

Rolo – Roll on lift-off vessel.

Rolo has got ramps for accessibility by the vehicles to the vehicle decks, an additional cargo deck but restricted for accessibility by the cargo cranes.

Thus, these vessels carry both vehicles and general cargo.

ConRo– hybrid of a RORO ship and container ship.

It utilizes the compartment beneath the deck for storing vehicles whereas keeping the containers above the decks.

RORO ships

RORO Ships

How Safe is a Ship?

Ships are very safe such that some researchers put the odds of perishing in a ship at 1 in 6.25 million.

From the design, manufacturing, to usage, the ships adhere to strictly laid-down rules and regulations to ensure everyone’s safety on board.

All the ships, including the cruise ships, promptly follow the US and Maritime law.

Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) maintains that an ordinary ship has to undergo more than 60 environmental, safety and health inspections every year.

Furthermore, the rapid advancement in marine technology further enhances the safety of the ships.

What is the Berthing of a Vessel?

Berthing of a vessel means mooring of a vessel like a ship at the berth whenever it is not at sea.

A berth commonly refers to a quay, pier, or wharf at which the ship comes along.

Besides, it is at this place that the sheep moor or anchors.

Berthing of a ship usually takes place at the port, bow, stem on, or starboard side.

The crew usually berths the vessel to enhance loading and unloading.

What are the Defining Differences Between Ship, Vessel, and Boats?

As we earlier noted, a vessel is a general term.

However, expansive and more complex vessels are ships, while the small and straightforward vessels are boats.

Now the main distinction comes between a boat and a ship.

And indeed, they are distinct and wide apart in meaning.

Technically, in terms of size, a ship is larger than a boat.

Moreover, ships operate and navigate the deep sea waters/ oceans while the boats are prevalent in shallow waters such as lakes or coastal regions.

Ships include tankers, cruise vessels, RoRo ships, while boats include sail vessels, paddle vessels, etc.

In terms of navigation and technology, boats are simple in design and equipment, while ships have a complex operation and drive.

Besides, boats have a little deck for cargo regarding their carrying capacity, whereas ships have a huge capacity to accommodate tonnes.

At what Point Does a Boat Become a Ship?

A boat becomes a ship whenever it meets the following expectations:

Firstly, If it increases in size to more than 197 feet (60 meters) length overall (LOA).

Secondly, incase the boat has over 500 tonnes of displacement.

Thirdly; if the boat is a commissioned surface vessel according to the US Navy regulations.

What is Chartering Vessel?

Chartering a vessel means the mutual agreement between a shipowner and a cargo owner.

This is whereby the owner, after striking a deal, rents out their ship for use in transporting the cargo.

Such kind of process, including contracts or legally binding agreements, is called a ship charter.

In this case, the shipowner becomes the legally registered entity as the ship owner, while a charterer is a hiring company.

A charter party, therefore, refers to the legal contract which binds the shipowner and a charterer.

chartering vessel

Chartering vessel

How Do you Find out Who Owns a Shipping Vessel?

Finding a shipowner is a bit more rigorous than you can imagine – because there is no distinct register outlining all these details.

Nevertheless, you may find that vital information with your countries’ government agency in charge of maritime or vessel sails.

For example,you may find the Maritime and Coastguard Agency  (MCA) records register in the UK.

Apart from that, you may find the ownership information in your contract letter issued by the shipping company.

What are the Differences Between a Vessel and a Tank?

A vessel could be small/ simple boats or large/ complex ships carrying a wide variety of cargo and ferrying passengers between ports.

On the flip side, a tank is a large ship that ferries liquid or gas-based cargo such as LPG, crude oil, etc.

How do You Determine a Vessel Position?

Determining a vessel’s position should be relative to your actual station or location.

If you are on land (not necessarily in the vessel), then you may use the following techniques:

Use your smartphone together with the Automatic Identification System App.

However, you have to know the ship’s AIS and confirm that it is indeed broadcasting.

Use GPS automatic positioning.

Besides, you can use celestial navigation positioning.

Incase you are onshore, then you can utilize the following:

Working out the bearings of various identifiable locations, then your position becomes where the bearing line crosses.

Alternatively, you may use GPS positioning.

How Many Containers Does a Ship Hold?

The number of containers entirely depends on the ship’s size and capacity.

The capacity of container ships is measured in Twenty Equivalent Units (TEUs).

Some have low TEUs while others have higher quantities specifically, the ships capacity range from about 4000 TEUs to more than 23000 TEUs.

What Material is Used to Make the Bottom of a Ship?

Welded Bent plates are the primary material for the bottom of the ship.

The shipbuilders always have to be keen to reinforce the plates while also stiffening them as necessary.

The plates are integral for two reasons; firstly, they keep the ship bottom strong to withstand the load’s heavyweight.

Secondly, the plates enable the hull to endure outward hydrostatic pressure that acts upon it.

What is the Difference Between a Stiff Ship and a Tender Ship?

A stiff ship is steady in the waters due to its low lying center of gravity to the bottom (keel).

The center of gravity’s position is low lying because of the ship’s considerable metacentric height (GM).

Consequently, a stiff ship would quickly snap back and roll rapidly when hit by waves, which means that they are so prone to the waves’ effects.

And that would be uncomfortable to those on board.

Elsewhere, a tender ship effectively endures the waves’ effects by rolling further on and back slowly.

Therefore, tender ships are way much comfortable for passengers.

This kind of ship has its center of gravity relatively higher from the bottom,i.e, a low GM.

As a result, they are less stable.

What are the Advantages of a Stiff ship and a Tender Ship?

A stiff ship is more stable in the waters, whereas a tender ship is more comfortable to passengers on board.

As you can see, both vessel and ship play an integral role in modern water transport.

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