The bulk of ro-ro shipments have traditionally focused on cars and heavier wheeled plant but those staples are now being augmented by a growing trend for out-of-gauge cargo.

Shippers are finding that ro-ro vessels offer a competitive alternative when it comes to loading a wheeled trailer with all manner of breakbulk cargoes.

It’s trend that we have seen develop over the past couple of years and now appears to be on the increase, whatever the global destination from the UK and Europe.

Wide open decks on ro-ro ships lend themselves to carrying high, wide and heavy loads, with ports ideal locations for transferring cargoes from road to trailer.

With access to high capacity mobile or quayside craneage, port facilities have always been popular as a site for cargo transfer.

Allied to a wide range of craneage is the expertise available in ports to carry out careful cargo loading and securing operations before shipments are placed and stowed on board. Such cargoes are often high value, bringing into focus the need for stevedoring skills and experience.

With global consumer demand for new vehicles dropping during the pandemic, the attraction of using deck space for these out-of-gauge shipments has increased. However, growth in these operations brings challenges, notably the requirement for port space to transfer loads and store them prior to loading.

So is the trend a passing phase or have we seen the rise of a new alternative for shippers? As ro-ro ships get bigger – Hoegh has its new Aurora Class of PCTC with a capacity of 9,100 CEUs under build- the pursuit of more diverse cargo is highly likely.

Shipments such as offshore equipment, construction plant, large manufacturing units and power plant are project cargoes that no longer need dedicated vessels with on-board craneage. Ro-ro ships, with ramps that can accommodate bigger cargo weight capacity, now have all the facilities needed to provide a competitive alternative.

With liner routes providing an extensive network of port destinations, higher and heavier ro-ro loads are set to become an even more regular feature.