What does RoRo refer to?

RoRo is the name given to vehicle carriers. RoRo ships take their name from the terms “roll-on” and “roll-off”. These ships are for the most part dedicated to vehicle transport of all kinds: cars, lorries, lorries with trailers, semi-trailer containers, exceptional transport, farming equipment, heavy construction vehicles, etc. Loading and unloading occurs thanks to a mobile access ramp, set up between the ship and dock.

RoRo ships are boats whose speed significantly reduces lead times when transferring goods. Thanks to their short loading and unloading times, they are the ideal solution for increased productivity. Certain RoRo ships transport containers. Close to 1,400 RoRo ships are currently sailing our seas.


Specificities of RoRo

  • A special handling technique: operators load and unload goods from the port’s “ro-ro” ramp to the ship’s mobile ramp;
  • “Ro-ro” is the exact opposite of “lo-lo” (lift-on, lift-off), also known as vertical loading using hoisting equipment;
  • Some ships combine both RoRo and LoLo methods, and are known as ConRo;
  • container and passenger transporters are known as Ropax: roll-on-roll-off-passenger-ship;
  • ships have a low draught, and are rarely used for inter-ocean goods transportation;
  • As such, they are mostly used for short-distance cabotage operations.

RoRo ships, as well as car transporters and mixed car-lorry transporters, form a special category of ships. They are easily recognised thanks to their covered box shape throughout the entire length and width of the decks. The folding ramps at the back and on the side of the ship are also specific to this category.


Examples and practical applications

  • RoRo is presented like a car park, with several levels that can be accessed via rotating ramps or vertical lifts;
  • Generally, the ramp located to the back of the ship rests against the dock, or against the port’s RoRo ramp when docking;
  • The main advantage of RoRo ships lies in how quickly loading and unloading operations occur - thus maximising the production tool as seen by ship-owners;
  • Its inter-modal status is renowned by customers wishing to load containers, mobile boxes and vehicles without breaking any bulk;
  • RoRo transport is quick and reliable, and is thus a good solution for reducing CO² emissions and any other road transport nuisances.

Boarding and unloading procedures

  • Shuttles take the ship’s drivers to the car parks where the vehicles to be loaded are being stored. Some of the drivers have lorry driver licences so they can steer trucks.
  • Out on the docks, a team checks inside all the cars, starts them and accounts for them in the system - both prior to loading and unloading.
  • The drivers load or unload the cars requiring transport.
  • On the car park’s access ramp, a docker known as “security” regulates traffic by guiding vehicles whenever visibility is poor.
  • Dockers guide vehicles to their final parking space for the trip.
  • Then, agents tie the cars in with straps in the front and back.
  • For lorries, several wheels are wedged in place in the front and back.


RoRo in figures

  • RoRo capacity (vehicle transporters) for transcontinental ships reaches between 7,000 and 8,000 cars.
  • Mixed car/lorry transporters can adapt part of their decks to the height of the vehicles transported: between 1.70 and 6.70 metres.
  • These ships generally exceed 200 metres in length and 30 metres in width.
  • The largest transporter currently available is the Tonsberg, measuring 265 metres long and 32 metres wide. It can hold up to 8,000 cars on its 13 decks (source: L’ANTENNE).


Regulatory cornerstones

  • contracts, including the
  • Major international maritime conventions
  • Maritime insurance policies
  • Transport Code