Types of Ships

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Ships are generally categorized based on their use, their type of cargo, and the method by which the cargo is loaded. In terms of usage, ships can be classified as commercial vessels, military vessels, fishing vessels, or specialized vessels. Commercial vessels can be classified as cargo ships, which carry cargo, or as passenger ships, whose primary function is to carry passengers. Based on cargo types, cargo ships are categorized into tanker which ships cargo in liquid state, dry bulker that ships dry cargo, and combined carrier.

Commercial Vessels

Vessel transporting liquid  cargo


A tanker is a vessel that stores and transports crude oil and petroleum products through pipes in each compartment of the cargo hold. Previously, the cargo tank wall was the shell plate, but when the international agreement to prevent sea pollution from ships took effect in 1993, the protection measure for cargo tanks was applied, and the structure of the bottom and shell plate of the ship was changed thereafter.

Crude Oil Tanker
This is a vessel that transports crude oil from a terminal in the exporting country to a terminal in the importing country. The vessel size is determined by the amount of crude oil that can be loaded.

Shuttle Tanker
A shuttle tanker is a ship that transports crude oil, delivered from the FPSO that produces and stores crude oil from an underwater oil field, to the terminal on land. Since a high level of positioning control is needed to prevent a collision in the process of receiving oil from the FPSO, shuttle tankers are equipped with dynamic positioning systems that enable the locating and directing of ships through the controls of thrusters, propellers and rudders.

Product Carrier
This is a ship that transports refined petroleum products from refinery plants to petroleum product consumption destinations around the world. Its size is generally PanaMax-type or below. Since it simultaneously transports a number of cargo types, it has many compartments within the cargo tank.

Chemical Tanker

This is a ship that carries chemical products with a high degree of purity and corrosiveness. Special paints and stainless steel are used in the cargo tank and pipeline. Chemical tankers are generally smaller than product carriers. As it carries various types of cargo, including liquid cargo and chemical products, close attention is needed to ensure safety during ship operation. Chemical tankers have many compartments within the cargo

tank to enable the simultaneous transportation of various chemical products, and each cargo tank is composed of separate pipelines to prevent pollution of the cargo. Furthermore, this type of ship is usually built to carry oil products as well as chemical products for its flexible operation.

LNG Carrier

An LNG tanker is designed to transport liquefied non-oil natural gas. Methane (boiling point -162℃) accounts for more than 90% of LNG. The volume of liquefied methane is 1/600 of that of solid methane, and its weight is 46% that of solid methane. LNG tankers must be made of a specialized type of hard steel to prevent breakage. In addition, a refrigerator device and warming facility are needed to maintain a low temperature.

LPG Carrier

LPG is composed of propane (boiling point -42℃) and butane (boiling point -5℃). It can be liquefied by raising the pressure at normal temperature, or by lowering the temperature under the atmospheric pressure.

Ships carrying solid cargo

Container Ship

This ship is faster than other ships, since it handles cargo that requires prompt transportation. Container ships are categorized as either 20-feet (TEU: Twenty foot Equivalent Unit) or 40-feet (FEU: Forty foot Equivalent Unit) ships.

Bulk Carrier

Bulk carriers are designed to transport dry goods that are not packaged, such as grains or minerals. There are no partitions within a bulk carrier, though the middle deck is placed to prevent the cargo from being pressured. It also has a topside tank and a hopper tank, to prevent the cargo from leaning to one side.

Ships transporting vehicles and passengers


In contrast to a cruise ship, which runs to various ports for travel purposes, a ferry is designed to transport passengers from one place to another. It runs between the same ports at intervals based on a time schedule. Ferries were first developed in Europe. A typical ferry transports automobiles and passengers together, and is called a car ferry or a passenger ferry.

Cruise Ships

A cruise ship carries more than 1,000 passengers for more than one day at a time. Typically, a cruise ship will have hundreds of cabins, elevators, and recreation facilities, including a casino, theater, swimming pool, and a tennis court. Cruise ships are often called ‘sea hotels’.

A cruise ship is the most difficult type of ship to build. Since a high level of technological expertise is required to provide a level of convenience and luxury in a ship that is the equivalent of a five-star hotel, it is a high value-added ship and is often called the ‘ship of dreams’.

Specialized Ships

Drill Ship

A drill ship is a drilling facility in the form of a ship, which can facilitate the drilling of crude oil and gas in deep sea areas with severe waves, and thus the related sea platform installation is difficult. It incorporates both ship technology and sea plant technology.

Ice Breaker

An ice breaker is designed to pave the way for ships by breaking ice. It paves routes for other ships. Typically, an ice breaker paves the way for ships to run in an ice-bound sea area, thus helping cargo ships to transport cargo.

Arctic shuttle tanker
Samsung Heavy Industries was the first ship manufacturer in the world to develop an Arctic shuttle tanker, which combines the functions of an ice breaker and an oil tanker. This ship is an ice-breaking oil tanker for polar regions, and is equipped with an independent ice-breaking function. It breaks ice up to 1.6 meters thick, can operate in temperatures as cold as minus 45 degrees, and is built to endure collisions with floating ice. The Arctic shuttle tanker is considered to be a high value-added vessel due to its economic value.

Military Vessel


A battleship has the strongest thermal power and leads the fleet. However, battleships are generally not used in modern naval battles, as their heaviness makes them less useful.

During the first and second world war, there was fierce competition between shipbuilders to build battleships that could showcase the military power of their countries. Some famous battleships throughout history include Germany’s Bismarck and Tirpitz, Britain’s King George IV, Japan’s Yamato and Mushashi, and the US ship Missouri. However, with the exception of the allied forces’ battleships these ships lacked mobility, and thus Germany and Japan’s battleships, which had previously been in the vanguard of shipbuilding technology, all faced the misfortune of sinking.


A cruiser is smaller than a battleship in terms of its thermal power and size. It is a strategic war vessel that guards a mobile fleet, and carries out long-term inspection.


A destroyer carries out patrols of outskirts, and conducts anti-submarine warfare and coastal inspection. There are two types of destroyers; frigate type and corvette type.

Aircraft Carrier

An aircraft carrier is a strategic warship that carries out long-distance operations.


The focus of the submarine industry has shifted from diesel-type submarines to nuclear submarines, which carry out underwater operations, coastal area inspections and long-term operations.

Military Vessel