What is Ro-Ro shipping?

What is Ro-Ro shipping?

Höegh Autoliners — 2023-12-21

Members Corner

Ro-Ro (roll-on-roll-off) is a term mostly used in shipping. Ro-Ro shipping is a safe and reliable way of transporting vehicles, mining equipment, trucks, buses, boats, and agricultural machinery overseas by sea. Unlike container shipping, Ro-Ro vessels are designed to accommodate cars and rolling cargo by allowing them to be driven or towed on and off the boat using rolltrailers. These vessels have dedicated ramps and parking areas to facilitate the efficient loading and unloading of cargo. It is considered the safest and cheapest way of heavy equipment transportation due to the easiness of loading and unloading. The cost of Ro-Ro transportation is usually cheaper than the cost of a single container. This makes Ro-Ro shipping the preferred choice of transportation for a wide range of industries, from automotive, and mining, to construction.

How does Ro-Ro shipping work?

All vehicles are driven or towed onto the vessel via a wide stern ramp by qualified handlers often called Stevedores. Stevedores are experienced drivers who ensure your vehicle is carefully driven on the vessel at the origin port and rolled off at the destination port then parked in the designated parking facility.

They can have up to 13 decks with liftable ramps connecting the decks. Vehicles are placed on the most suitable decks, depending on their height, length, and weight.

Once on board, the vehicles are secured to lashing points using braces or straps. This keeps them from moving, even in rough weather conditions. Once at the destination port, vehicles will either be picked up personally, or shipping can be arranged to move it from the lot to its final destination.

Höegh Autoliners can transport almost any type of cargo. Our fleet of rolltrailers incorporates several different sizes of cargo carrying equipment ranging from 20 to 80 feet with the capacity to handle up to 160 MT. The longer rolltrailers are equipped with integrated rails for carriage of trains with bogies.

When is Ro-Ro shipping used?

Roll-on-roll-off shipping is used by various industries including the automotive industry to transport new and used cars, buses, trucks, trams, and other vehicles as it’s considered a safe, efficient, and cost-effective way of moving large numbers of vehicles across continents.

This form of shipping is also used by the mining and construction industry to transport plant and heavy machinery and equipment. This includes bulldozers, excavators, cranes, and other oversized vehicles that can be driven onto the ship.

Ro-Ro shipping is also ideal for project cargo as it allows for the transportation of oversized cargo that may not fit traditional containers.

Lastly, Ro-Ro shipping is also used for the transportation of emergency and military vehicles. Ro-Ro vessels provide a quick and efficient way to transport vehicles, equipment, and supplies to areas affected by natural disasters or conflict zones.

What are the advantages of Ro-Ro shopping?

The main benefits of Ro-Ro shipping include time and cost efficiency and reduced risk of damage. Vehicles being driven or towed on the ship means there is less chance of damage as opposed to lifting vehicles into containers.

Our Ro-Ro vessels are pure car/truck carriers (PCTC) meaning they can carry a large number of vehicles and can accommodate high and heavy and unconventionally sized cargo.

We operate a fleet of around 50 Ro-Ro vessels, designed for maximum flexibility to cater for a wide variety of cargo, ranging from cars to high and heavy and breakbulk. Our New Horizon vessels are some of the world’s largest Ro-Ro vessels, offering up to 6.5 metres of free deck height, 12 metres of ramp width and a ramp capacity of 375 MT.

Our Höegh Bridge eliminates the need for crane lifting in both load and discharge ports as the railcars can be directly rolled on and off the rolltrailer, which is equipped with rail tracks. This makes the operation safer and less costly than with crane lifts.

In 2024, we are bringing out the Aurora Class vessels which will be the largest and most environmentally friendly car carriers in the industry and the first in the PCTC segment to receive DNV’s ammonia and methanol-ready notations.

Examples of using Ro-Ro ships for emergency aid

Red Cross

In 2005, Höegh Autoliners transported 44 trucks from Gothenburg, Sweden to Sumatra, Indonesia, for relief efforts after the South East Asia tsunami.

In January 2006, Höegh Autoliners cooperated with Red Cross Norway to ro/ro transport Red Cross relief initiatives to Mombasa, Kenya, and the famine-stricken regions in eastern Africa.

SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages is an international child welfare organization that provides long-term care for orphans and children in need.

In 2005 Höegh Autoliners entered a partnership with SOS Children’s Villages and has financed the building and running of three family houses and a social centre in the Lipa Children’s Village in the Philippines. In 2008, the partnership was extended when Höegh committed to financing the construction of four family houses in Calbayog Children’s Village in the Philippines and providing running costs for one family house in the Cebu Children’s Village. Höegh’s objective in the operation was a broad engagement within the organization for SOS Children’s Villages projects. In 2008, the first young man who grew up in an SOS Children’s Village in the Philippines was accepted into the Höegh cadet program, starting his career with the company.

Höegh assisted evacuation of people from Beirut

The Höegh Autoliners Ro-Ro vessel MV HAUL Transporter assisted the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) by evacuating Norwegian and other foreign citizens from the unrest in Lebanon and Beirut.

On July 15, 2006, HAUL Transporter was en route from the US and Europe to the Middle East and Asia and was turned around in Egypt to go to Cyprus, where it picked up extra lifesaving equipment and supplies before proceeding to Beirut. On July 18, 2006, the vessel reached Beirut and picked up 1,120 passengers including Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Danish, and US citizens. In July 2006, the vessel reached Larnaca in Cyprus with 1,120 passengers on board.


Ro-Ro shipping has become an integral part of global logistics and provides a seamless and efficient solution for transporting vehicles and rolling cargo. Its versatility, cost-effectiveness, and time efficiency make it a preferred choice for various industries, from automotive to construction and beyond. As the demand for efficient and reliable cargo transport continues to grow, Ro-Ro shipping plays a crucial role in shaping the future of international trade.