Role Of Ro/Ro Shipping In Dry Cargo Trade

The past two to three years have seen a continuing growth of interest in ro/ro vessels, with a relatively small but nevertheless steady stream of orders for this type of ship—both large and small — being placed with shipyards in Europe and Japan. Ro/ ro handling was first introduced onto the European short-sea trades 30 years ago, and the concept has been successfully applied since the mid-1960s on a number of long-distance routes, for instance on the North Atlantic and between Europe and Australia.

It is therefore rather surprising that it is only fairly recently that the changing conditions of international trade should have focused so much attention on ro/ro.

It is true to say, however, that the difficulties which have emerged from the rapid opening up of trades to the developing countries in the Middle East and elsewhere have highlighted the relative advantages of ro/ro visa- vis other transportation modes.

However, despite its apparent adaptability, the future of ro/ro is by no means assured. There is a consensus of opinion that the optimum advantage of ro/ro handling can only be achieved over short distances, and that it be- comes increasingly less economic over longer routes; so it is felt that with the completion of various port development schemes in the Middle East, in particular, its usefulness on any large scale may be only transitory.

Whatever the realities of the situation, the value of the ro/ro vessel in the present world market, the considerable ingenuity which is constantly being expended on design, and its evident potential for developing countries, where congestion is a perennial problem, more than justifies an in-depth assessment of its present and future role both in deepsea and short-sea trades. The purpose of the present survey is to examine the employment and operation of ro/ro vessels, highlighting costs and performance, as well as other important aspects of their competitiveness with other shipping types.

The HPD survey of "RO/RO SHIPPING: An Appraisal of its Role in Dry Cargo Trade," includes : The development of ro/ro as part of a widespread movement toward unitization, and a brief comparison of ro/ro with other modes of unit transportation— containerships, barge carriers, pallet ships; The growth of the ro/ro fleet and the impetus behind its development, identifying the main centers of interest in this type of tonnage, and the extension of operational patterns, which has had a fundamental influence on design; The various classes of ro/ro vessel, ranging from the shortsea combined passenger/freight ferry and pure ro/ro-cargo ferry, to the highly developed deepsea designs, including discussion of dimensions, speed, cargo-handling capability, etc., and considering the difference in employment for each of these types of vessel; The potential size of the ro/ro fleet, examining trends in newbuilding orders, and in the potential employment of contracted tonnage; An examination of the shortsea ro/ro operations, looking at the ownership of vessels, major routes and cargo types, and the progress which has been made in ship design to meet the demands of these trades, with special reference to Northern European operation ; A review of the major deepsea trades, and the vessels which have been built — or are being built — to serve them. Cargo capacity, vessel dimensions and other vessel characteristis are detailed in a systematic manner, and the contribution of ro/ro space to these trades, by comparison with cellular capacity, is discussed; The development of ro/ro services into congested ports, describing the onset of congestion and the usefulness of ro/ro handling and indicating the extent of ro/ro and other services into the Middle East and Nigeria; The cost of acquiring ro/ro vessels — with special reference to ro/ro cargo vessels, both deepsea and short-sea types — including discussion of newbuilding and second-hand costs, and comparing them with equivalent prices for containerships and general cargo vessels; The operational outgoings experienced by operators of ro/ro tonnage, including items such as manning, insurance, repairs and maintenance, etc., and offering comparison with costs for other vessel types, and The trading patterns of ro/ro vessels, examining vessel efficiency, possible shortcomings in this type of tonnage through examining their performance on various trades, and offering comparison with cellular and other tonnage.

"RO/RO SHIPPING: An Appraisal of its Role in Dry Cargo Trade" can be obtained at a price of U.S. $160 by writing to HPD Shipping Publications, 84 Brook Street, London W1Y 2LL, England.

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 12,  Sep 15, 1977

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