What is Roll-On/Roll-Off (Ro/Ro) Transportation?

Roll-On/Roll-Off” transportation, or RO/RO transportation, stands for a method of cargo transportation. This is primarily used for vehicles, heavy machinery, and other wheeled or self-propelled equipment. This system enables drivers to load and unload these vehicles and equipment onto and off a vessel. Doing so makes the process more efficient and convenient.

In RO/RO operation, specialized vessels have large, open decks that enable vehicles and machinery to be driven directly onto the ship at the port of origin. The crew securely stows the cargo on board and transports it to the destination port. Upon arrival, the crew rolls the cargo off the ship and onto the terminal for further distribution or use.

The process is similar to how passengers drive their cars onto and off a ferry when crossing a body of water. But, this is a much larger scale and with dedicated facilities for loading and unloading cargo.

What can we ship using Roll-on/Roll-off (RO/RO) Service?

RO/RO services facilitate the transportation of various goods and vehicles efficiently. These were initially developed by Japanese car manufacturers to enhance shipping to the United States and Europe. These services have evolved to cater to a broad range of cargo types. Companies use specialized vessels for roll on/roll off operations to ship the following items using RO/RO service:

  • Vehicles and Trucks: RO/RO services make it easy to transport cars, trucks, and other automobiles.
  • Boats: This method can safely ship watercraft, such as boats and yachts.
  • Buses: RO/RO services allow for the seamless delivery of buses and other similar large vehicles.
  • Motor-homes and RVs: RO/RO shipping can also transport recreational vehicles and motor homes.
  • Tractors: This service can haul agricultural tractors and similar machinery with ease.
  • Excavators: You can efficiently ship construction equipment like excavators using RO/RO transportation.
  • Cranes: Specialized RO/RO vessels can transport large and heavy cranes as well.

Pros of RO/RO Service

Roll-on roll-off (Ro/Ro) service offers several significant advantages in international shipping. This makes it an attractive option for various types of cargo, especially self-propelled vehicles and machinery.

Enhanced Safety and Security

Ro/Ro transportation provides a higher level of safety for cargo during transit. The cargo is shielded from potential damage caused by exposure to the elements or mishandling during loading and unloading. This is because it is housed within the vessel’s belly. The use of ramps and Mafi trailers eliminates the need for hoisting cargo with cranes, reducing the risk of accidents and cargo damage. Compared to break-bulk transport, which involves multiple handling points, Roll on Roll off service significantly minimizes the chances of cargo damage due to unforeseen issues or tarp failures.

Reliable Schedule

Ro/Ro carriers typically operate on a fixed and predictable schedule. They often have long-term agreements with automobile manufacturers, which ensures regular and consistent vessel arrivals at specific ports. Knowing the stop-off points and frequency of arrivals can greatly benefit cargo owners. Also, it will allow them to plan their logistics more effectively.

Cost Savings

Compared to traditional break-bulk shipping, Ro/Ro ocean carriage can be more cost-effective.As self-propelled cargo, such as cars and machinery, may not occupy the entire vessel’s capacity, shippers with smaller loads can fill the void and take advantage of the carrier’s fixed route. This approach can lead to lower transportation costs compared to break-bulk shipping, which routes vessels based on cargo availability and may not follow a predictable schedule.

Time Efficiency

Preparing cargo for Ro/Ro service requires less time and effort compared to other international shipping methods.
Roll on/Roll off loading typically requires vehicles and machinery to be functional, which means they only need minimal preparations, such as having some gasoline in the tank and attaching the battery. In contrast, other shipping methods often demand the removal of gasoline and batteries for safety reasons, which can be more time-consuming.

Quick Loading and Unloading Process

The loading and unloading process for Roll on / Roll off service is straightforward and quick. This simplicity allows for faster turnaround times at ports, reducing overall transit times. As a result, cargo becomes available and drivable at the destination port more swiftly compared to other shipping methods that involve more complex loading procedures, such as container shipping.

Cons or disadvantages of Roll on/Roll off service

Ro/Ro transportation, while advantageous in certain situations, comes with its share of cons and disadvantages that businesses should consider. Here are some of the main drawbacks:

Limited Availability and Port Accessibility

Ro/Ro service might not be available in every international mover or country, as it requires relatively relaxed and efficient customs regulations in the destination country. Additionally, not all origin and destination ports can accommodate Roll on Roll off service, which means you’ll need to check with the international moving company or freight forwarders to ensure availability at specific ports for shipping your vehicle.

Lengthy Shipping Duration

One significant disadvantage of Roll on Roll off shipping is the extended transit time. Shipping goods overseas using Ro/Ro vessels can take several months, whereas air shipping can complete the same task within a matter of days. This extended shipping duration can be a critical consideration for time-sensitive shipments.

Lower Protection for Vehicles

Compared to container shipping or air shipping (often involving containers), Roll on/Roll off shipping provides less protection for vehicles. During the loading and unloading process, shipping workers may drive your vehicle, which poses a risk of accidents. Once on the cargo deck, environmental conditions can expose your vehicle to extreme temperatures and rough waters, which may test the cargo deck’s restraints.

Requirement for Operational Vehicles

Roll on/Roll off service requires vehicles to be in operational condition, capable of steering and rolling up and down ramps. This requirement can be problematic for vintage vehicles or nonfunctional cars that you may still wish to ship. Moreover, the presence of gas and batteries in the vehicle for it to be drivable during shipping increases the risk of potential spills or fires.

Higher On/Pre-Carriage Costs

Ro/Ro vessels are not as prevalent as container ships, which are widely available at most ports globally. These vessels call at fewer ports. Therefore, the distance between your load’s origin/destination and the Roll on Roll off port of export and discharge might be considerable. Companies using Roll on Roll off vessels often face higher costs to transport cargo to and from each port as a result.

Infrequent Sailings

Ro/Ro vessels typically offer fewer sailings per month compared to container vessels. Container vessels have more frequent sailings, with some departing every five days or so. The infrequent sailings of Ro/Ro vessels require careful planning and sufficient lead time. This is to ensure your cargo’s journey aligns with your timelines. Missing an appointment/loading time at a Ro/Ro carrier’s port could lead to significant delays. As the vessel may not return soon, it may require a complete rerouting of your shipment.

Car shipping using Roll on/Roll off Service

RO/RO service is a cost-effective method for international car shipping. Drivers use ramps to efficiently load and unload vehicles onto a specialized ship’s deck. However, Roll-on/Roll-off service may have limited availability. They may also have longer transit times and provide less protection for vehicles in comparision to other shipping methods. It is advisable to seek assistance from experts when considering car shipping using RO/RO service. Professionals can provide guidance on the process, handle necessary preparations, and ensure a smooth and secure transportation of the vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of cargo is typically sent via roll-on/roll-off?

Vehicles, such as cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles, are typically sent via roll-on/roll-off (RORO) shipping.

What does roll-on/roll-off transport cost?

The cost of roll-on/roll-off (RORO) transport varies depending on factors. This includes distance, vehicle size, and destination. As a fact, is generally more cost-effective than other shipping methods.

What are the major RORO Shipping locations in the USA?

Major Ro/Ro shipping services are commonly available at prominent ocean ports in the United States. These ports include New York, Baltimore, Charleston, Jacksonville, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Galveston, and Los Angeles.

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