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.

Product Transport

Leaders in Ocean Transport,
Connecting the World with a Network of Sea Routes

In contrast to bulkships, tankers, and LNG carriers that transport energy resources and raw materials, MOL’s car carriers and containerships carry finished products in large quantities.

Japan’s automobile exports began in earnest in the late 1950s, and currently about 4 million vehicles are exported annually. In response to booming car exports, dedicated vessels called pure car carriers (PCCs) were developed to ensure the safe, efficient transport of completed vehicles (mainly automobiles).

In addition, containerships, which have spurred innovation in global logistics and are sometimes referred to as the greatest human invention of the 20th century, are important vessels that support the foundation of ocean transport. The efficiency of product transport has continued to advance, and today’s largest vessels can carry more than 20,000 containers at one time.

‘Floating Multi-story Parking Lots’
for Efficient Mass Transport of Vehicles

PCCs and PCTCs have a multi-story deck structure, like multi-level parking lots. Because their unique hull shape exposes a large area to the wind, they are more susceptible to “leeway,” in which the vessel is pushed by the wind and proceeds at an angle, than other ships. MOL’s car carriers feature rounded bows with a diagonal cut to reduce crosswinds and improve fuel efficiency, and the sides are stepped over the entire length of the vessel to reduce the effects of crosswinds.

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, delivered in 2018, have capacities of 6,800 units, and can flexibly accommodate a wide variety of vehicles. They have 14 decks, six of which are height-adjustable, and can load cargo as tall as 5.6m. And the rampway can hold cargo weighing up to 150 tons. These modern vessels can transport virtually any type of vehicle and a range of other self-propelled cargoes as well.

A Revolution in Automobile Transport
In the early days of Japanese autos exports, completed cars were loaded by crane, one by one, aboard conventional vessels, and unloaded the same way at their destination. the advent of car carriers. This method was time-consuming and labor-intensive, and vehicles were often damaged during cargo handling operations or while underway.

MOL teamed up with automakers on joint research that led to the realization of a completely new idea: the roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) method, in which automobiles are driven on and off the vessel.
Door-to-door Transport
with International Standard Containers

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.

Shipping containers, which were introduced in the 1950s, had a massive impact on the trade and transport of commodities and products, not to mention the development of global supply chains. At the time, ocean cargo transport depended mainly on labor-intensive and inefficient cargo loading processes. In fact, labor costs accounted for the majority of logistics expenses. However, the use of standardized shipping containers has made it possible to transport large quantities of miscellaneous goods safely and inexpensively.

Shipping Containers: Size, Numbering, and TEUs
Shipping 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 shipping containers are standardized by the International Standardization Organization (ISO).
  • 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.
  • ‘FLEXIE’ series car carriers offer the flexibility to transport a wide variety of vehicles
  • A car carrier arrives at the terminal where cars are lined up waiting to be unloaded
  • Containers, unloaded from the vessel by crane, are placed directly onto chassis
  • Crewmembers on a lashing bridge check loaded containers