Product Transport

Bulkships carry resources and tankers carry energy. Here, we have other types of vessels that carry finished products.

This section introduces car carriers that transport automobiles and containerships that carry a wide variety of cargoes such as apparel, appliances, and other items we use every day.

— "Floating Multi-storey Parking lots" for efficient mass transport of RORO vehicles —
  • These vessels are called Pure Car Carriers (PCCs) or Pure Car and Truck Carriers (PCTCs), and they are designed specifically to transport self-propelled cargoes such as automobiles and construction machinery. In 1965, MOL launched Japan’s first specialized car carrier equipped with loading/unloading equipment, the Oppama Maru.


  • FLEXIE series car carriers are adaptable to any vehicle transport need

  • A car career at anchor in the terminal, with vehicles lined up and ready for loading


  • Structure/Characteristics
    Today’s car carriers have no loading/unloading gear equipment such as cranes. Instead, expert drivers drive the cars on and off through a hatch at the side or stern of the ship, which has a rampway that connects to the pier. This loading/unloading method is called Roll On/Roll Off (RO/RO). Inside, the ship has multiple decks, like a huge multi-level parking garage.

    Because of their unique shape, these "multi-storey parking lots" generate considerable wind resistance. As a result, they are more subject to "leeway," a drift leeward of the course being steered, than other vessel designs. To reduce wind resistance and increase fuel efficiency, the bows of MOL’s car carriers are aerodynamically rounded, and the vessels also have different levels, with square-cut corner sections all along the sides of the vessels to help reduce pressure from side winds.

    Some of the cargo decks are "liftable decks," which means their height can be adjusted in accordance with vehicle height, so vessels can load not only passenger cars, but also taller vehicles such as buses, trucks, and even large construction machinery. To maximize loading capacity, the drivers leave just 30cm between the front of one car and the rear of the next, and a mere 10cm from side to side.

    In the days of the Oppama Maru, car carriers could hold about 1,200 vehicles, but current PCCs and PCTCs have capacities of up to 8,500 units. (Loading capacity is calculated for standard passenger cars measuring 4.125m long and 1.55m wide.)

    MOL’s FLEXIE series vessels, introduced in 2018, have capacities of 6,800 units, and can flexibly accommodate a lineup of vehicles that has grown much more diverse in recent years. They have 14 decks, six of which are liftable, and can accommodate cargo as tall as 5.6m. And the rampway can hold cargo weighing up to 150 tons. These modern ships can transport virtually any type of vehicle and a range of other self-propelled cargoes as well.


Loading cars from the rampway

  • Vehicles are loaded with spaces of just 30cm between the front of one car and the rear of the next, and 10cm from side to side.

  • Loading large machinery


— Door-to-door Transport with International Standard Containers —
  • These vessels carry cargoes that are loaded into international standard ocean containers. Shipping routes and schedules are set in advance like bus or train services, and vessels periodically call at predetermined ports. In addition, containerized cargoes can be swiftly and easily reloaded to trucks and rail cars, making it possible to provide integrated door-to-door transport service.

    MOL’s first containership, the America Maru, was launched in 1968, and had a capacity of about 700 TEUs. Since the 1970s, international ocean-going container transport completely transformed the shipping industry, and containerships have become larger and larger. The first 2,000 TEU class ships were delivered in the 1970s, the first 4,000 TEU vessels arrived in the late 1980s, and 10,000 TEU class ships came on the scene after 2000. Vessels continue to grow larger, and today MOL operates one of world’s largest containerships, with a capacity of 20,000 TEUs.


  • 20,000 TEU-class containership.
    LOA: 400m, breadth: 58.8m

  • Containers, unloaded from the vessel by crane,
    are directly loaded onto chassis.


  • Structure/Characteristics
    Containerships call at dedicated terminals that have container loading and unloading facilities and equipment. So generally, these vessels are not equipped with onboard cranes. Vertical rails called "cell guides" are installed in cargo holds to load containers efficiently, and the containers are lashed to keep them in place. "Lashing bridges" serve as scaffolds for lashing operations on deck. In addition, containerships can sail at higher speeds than other ship types to maintain stable calling schedules.


  • Loading containers along cell guides

  • Crewmembers on a lashing bridge check loaded containers.


Ocean Containers: Size, Numbering, and TEUs

Ocean containers are available in many styles, making them adaptable for various cargo contents and shapes. The most common type, which transports a wide variety of cargoes, is called "dry containers." "Refrigerated (reefer) containers" transport frozen and refrigerated cargoes. "Open top containers" have no roof, so they can accommodate oversize items. Similarly, "flat rack containers" have no sides or doors, and are also used for shipment of non-standard sized cargo. And "tank containers" carry liquid cargo.
Sizes, strength, external dimensions, and the numbering system for ocean containers are standardized by the International Standardization Organization (ISO).

  • Refrigerated (reefer) container: A refrigeration unit is installed in the container to maintain a pre-set temperature.

  • Flat rack container: Transporting long, heavyweight, or oversized cargo, which cannot be accommodated in a standard container.


  • There are basically two lengths for containers: 20 feet and 40 feet.
  • Numbers on the container designate its owners, type, and size.
  • Loading capacity and transport records of containerships are expressed in "TEUs," a term that stands for "Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit." A 20-foot container is 1 (one) TEU. A 40-foot container is counted as 2 TEUs.
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