Dry Cargo Ships Explained: Specialised Vessels

Specialised Vessel

Part 4: Specialised Vessels

As a respected full-service maritime and offshore procurement company that services all of SA’s major ports, the Link Ship Chandlers team is fully immersed in the world of maritime trade at all times. However, we also understand that everyone is not as versed in the lingo of the shipping world as we are, which is why we’ve decided to use our blog to put together a handy glossary of industry-related terms. In this series, we’re discussing various types of dry cargo ships and tankers.

In our previous article, we took a look at short sea vessels. Today we continue our journey into the world of dry cargo ships by discussing specialised vessels:


The term ‘specialised vessels’ refers to tailor-made ships that have been designed with a very particular purpose in mind. These include:

Heavy-lift Ships

These vessels are called to service when heavy project cargoes come into play. This can include bulky shipments of up to 2000 tonnes that are too cumbersome to be loaded onto a regular vessel by means of cranes or pivoting derricks.

Wood Chip Carriers

Wood chip products are used by pulp mills and paper manufacturers around the globe. Wood chip carriers have been designed to accommodate this very specialised cargo class to perfection. It comes equipped with its own cranes and conveyor belts for cargo discharge, and can carry between 40 000 and 60 000 tons deadweight.

Livestock Carriers

Shipping live animals is a tricky business. The two main kinds of livestock carriers are sheep- and cattle carriers. These vessels need to feature:

  • Storage for fodder
  • Exceptional ventilation
  • Space for plenty of drinking water
  • Disposal systems for animal waste
  • Special ramps for onboarding and offloading
  • Accommodation for staff tending the livestock

Although these vessels are normally purpose-built from scratch, you also find examples where existing ships have been retrofitted with the needs of livestock shipping enterprises in mind.

Refrigerated Vessels (Reefers)

Reefers are highly specialised. It has insulated holds that can be adjusted according to the requirements of various types of cargo; and normally has 2+ decks. To keep travel times for perishable cargoes short and sweet, these vessels are very fast.

There you have it – specialised vessels in a nutshell. In our next blog on this topic, we’ll move over to the tanker market and start out with product tankers. In the meantime, feel free to get in touch with a member of the Link Ship Chandlers team if you would like to learn more about the services we provide from the ports in Cape Town, Saldanha, Port Elizabeth, Coega, Durban and Richards Bay.

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