Understanding Roll-On Roll-Off Shipping


On numerous occasions within our industrial packing and crating blog we have mentioned the prospect of shipping construction equipment overseas. With Canada being the home to many specialized construction companies and other organizations with architectural projects abroad the global demand for overseas shipping of heavy machinery from our BC ports is on the rise. There are basically three options for shipping such machinery, two of which we will discuss in future posts (thus follow our Cratex Group blog on a regular basis) with the remaining, and most common, discussed here today. We’re talking about roll-on/roll-off shipping.

What is roll-on/roll-off shipping?

Roll-on/roll-off (or RoRo) involves the use of shipping vessels to transports heavy wheeled machinery overseas. The ships are constructed to receive cargo ranging from vehicles, semi-trucks, trailers, mobile shipping containers, and rail cars. The cargo is wheeled, or rolled, onto the containment deck and rolled off upon arrival at the final destination. RoRo enabled ships are equipped with heavy load bearing ramps (on either bow, stern, or both) so that machinery can be rolled on and off with relative ease. Think of the process in the same relative manner than you would when taking your vehicle on the ferry from Vancouver to the island, but in a much grander scale and over a vast seawater distance.

How is roll-on/roll-off shipping measured?

Normally, cargo measured for shipping estimates is done so by the metric tonne. However when shipping construction machinery by the RoRo method measurement is typically taken by Lanes in Metres (LIM). LIM is calculated by multiplying three elements; i) metre length taken up by the machinery (cargo), ii) the number of ship decks used, and iii) the width in lanes where machinery is parked.

How safe is roll-on/roll-off shipping?

In the past there was a reputation for RoRo focused shipping vessels to be the most likely of overseas cargo ships to take on seawater. Their inherent design was the issue because the large loading doors that allowed roll-on/roll-off to occur also increased risk in the event that loading doors were not properly secured. Water accumulating on the deck can lead to instability. While capsizing is unlikely, the cargo becomes more susceptible to “bumps and bruises” – a mild way of putting it when discussing heavy machinery tonnage. Today designs of such ships have vastly improved with the towering height of the ships freeboard – the distance from the waterline to the upper deck level, measured at the lowest point of sheer where water can enter the boat or ship (wiki) – being the saving grace.

While RoRo is considered by many to be the only way to transport heavy wheeled construction machinery overseas few companies will do so with out including the services of an industrial packing and crating company. Companies such as Cratex Group ensure that the proper bracketing and bracing of the heaviest of machinery is in place before being sent off on its journey. If your organization has the shipping of wheeled construction gear on the near horizon we urge you to contact Cratex Group today to discuss your cargo protection options.