How Freight Ships Are Built

How Freight Ships Are Built
June 5, 2020 Aldo Flores
Freight Ship Construction

When you ship your vehicle overseas, it will be carried on a large freight ship along with thousands of tons of cargo. The general cargo ship specifications can vary depending on the size and type of cargo ship it is, but each one is a masterpiece of engineering powered by a massive container ship engine that allows for efficient transport in the roughest waters.

Large Container Ships

The international cargo trade is largely driven by container ships, a type of freight ship designed to hold 20 to 40-foot long steel containers filled with goods, property, and other freight. They vary dramatically in size and configuration. While some are made only to carry containers both in their hold and on deck, others are designed to carry cargo containers on deck and other types of property in their hold, such as vehicles.

While all these variations can change how a ship is constructed, operates, and how much it can carry, rendering the idea of general cargo ship specifications moot, there are some similarities they all share. For the sake of general reference, a mid-sized container-only ship might carry around 1000 40-foot containers or an equivalent number of smaller containers configured to maximize space. A 40-foot container, packed full, can hold up to 30 tons of property. This mid-size container ship could be carrying 30,000 tons of cargo from one port to another.

Shipping On An Immense Scale

In order to carry this cargo and maximize the efficiency of freight operations, a freight ship is built on a massive scale and powered by a large container ship engine that can offer over 100,000 horsepower to get the ship moving and keep it at speed as efficiently as possible. The ships themselves can be 2-3 football fields in length. The hull is constructed of heavy steel plating, with compartments and bulwarks underneath to help ensure that even in the event of a minor disaster, your cargo is safe.

Constructing these ships is no easy feat, and it can take years to complete a single ship at one of the specialized shipyards that can make such a large vessel. This process is meant to ensure the freight ship that carries your goods is designed and built with the latest in ship building practices so that the carrier who operates it has a reliable cargo transport that keeps costs down and gets to its destination safely and efficiently.

cargo ship in port


  • The Design Stage – While to the untrained eye, these ships may all be the same and share the same general cargo ship specifications, the truth is quite different. When a carrier approaches a ship builder, they do so with an idea of the features they want based on their expected needs. Some freight ships have a hold that allows vehicles to be driven in and secured to the decking for transport. Others have compartments that are converted to carry liquids. The design stage alone can take over a year as first the general configuration is agreed on by the designers and carriers, then the remaining details that allow the ship to function are designed around these cargo needs.
  • Building Blocks – Something as large as a container ship is not laid down stem-to-stern all at once. Instead, sections are constructed in what are known as blocks. This includes not only the outside plating of the hull, but the framework and infrastructure inside the ship as well. These blocks are hoisted, positioned, moved, and even inverted by large cranes to allow workers to build each individual section out as completely as possible.
  • Bigger Blocks – As blocks are finished, they are moved through the yard and joined together to form even larger blocks. These are eventually joined together until the hull is assembled and the ship is mostly completed.
  • Finishing Touches – Once the freight ship is nearly ready, it is launched into the water. There the work continues on the interior of the vessel. Final touches are added, connections are completed, and the container ship engine is prepped for service. Once it’s finished, the carrier will take delivery and the ship will begin carrying cargo over the open ocean.

Finding The Right Ship For Your Freight

Luckily, you don’t have to worry about finding the right freight ship for your vehicle, because we do it for you. Our familiarity with general cargo ship specifications and the carriers who operate them positions us as experts who make sure your vehicle is transported safely and securely. Contact us for a free estimate on shipping your vehicle or freight. Let Trans Global Auto Logistics move your vehicle for you.

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