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Specialized Cargo

Types of Vessels Carrying General and Specialized Cargo

Logistics services providers ship cargo on different types of vessels based on the kinds of goods to be transported. Ships come in different sizes and include reefer vessels, livestock vessels, container carriers, tanker vessels, multi-purpose vessels, and others.


Ultra large crude carriers weigh between 320,000 and 550,000 DWT and are used to ship hazardous goods such as chemicals, liquefied natural gas, and crude oil. Very large crude carriers weigh up to 320,000 DWT while Capesize are up to 150,000 DWT and can only pass through Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope but not through the Suez Canal or Panama Canal. Based on size, ships are also classified as Malaccamax, Suezmax, Aframax, Panamax, Handymax, and handy size. IFA members partner with freight ship companies that operate vessels of different size to offer integrated transportation and logistics services.

Specialized transportation



Vessel Types

Multi-purpose vessels are usually used at ports where shore handling facilities are not available. They ship different types of cargo such as building materials, steel, and wood.  General cargo vessels also carry irregular and loose items. Cargo is unloaded and loaded by specialized equipment and mechanisms such as slings, straps, and boxes.

Ships that carry liquid cargo include liquefied gas carriers, chemical carriers, product carriers, and liquid cargo ships. Chemical carriers, for example, are smaller in size (up to 40,000 tons) and are fitted with specialized equipment such as cleaning, cooling, and heating systems. Product carriers are also relatively small in size and ship cargo to smaller ports. They are used to transport liquid cargo such as tar, lubricating oil, asphalt, diesel, jet fuel, and petroleum. LNG vessels ship liquefied natural gas and are fitted with membrane and cargo tanks. They are equipped with membrane systems with a secondary and primary barrier, and liquefied gas is contained with the help of a nickel alloy or stainless steel membrane.

Reefer vessels are used for refrigeration transport and ship perishable goods that require temperature control. The main types of reefer vessels are refrigerated container ships, conventional vessels, and side-door vessels.

Container vessels are used to carry large quantities of cargo and come in different varieties, including small feeders, feeders, new Panamax, etc. Geared vessels are equipped with cargo cranes or gantry cranes.

Finally, livestock vessels ship live animals such as goats, cattle, and sheep. Other domesticated breeds that are transported include ostriches, deer, camels, and horses.  These ships have feeding zones for livestock, equipped with automated watering and feeding systems. The main types of livestock carriers are closed and open. Closed carriers ship animals in pens that are installed on the internal decks while open carriers transport animals in pens on open decks, the main benefit being natural ventilation.

Other types of ships that carry cargo include ro-ro vessels, project or heavy-lift cargo vessels, crude carriers, and dry cargo ships. Tugs are often used because they are highly maneuverable and aid the movement, unberthing, and birthing of less maneuverable and larger-size ships, especially in unfavorable weather conditions.