Product Transport
Unlike bulkships that carry resources and tankers that carry energy, other types of vessels 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 Parking Garages’ Load/Unload
Self-propelled Cargo, Boosting Transport Efficiency

These vessels are called Pure Car Carriers (PCCs) or Pure Car and Truck Carriers (PCTCs), and they are designed specifically to transport cargoes such as automobiles and self-propelled construction machinery. In 1965, MOL launched Japan’s first specialized car carrier equipped with loading/unloading equipment, the Oppama Maru.

Today’s car carriers do not have loading and unloading facilities and equipment such as cranes. Instead, expert drivers drive the cars on and off through a hatch at the stern, 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. 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. The height of some decks is adjustable to make more headroom for large buses, trucks, and construction machinery.

In the days of the Oppama Maru , car carriers could hold about 1,200 vehicles, but today’s largest PCCs and PCTCs have capacities of 8,400 units.
Typical MOL-operated standard car carriers are about the same height as a 15-floor parking garage and have a capacity of 6,400 vehicles.
Car carrier loading capacity is calculated for standard passenger cars measuring 4.125m long and 1.55mm wide.

World’s First Newbuilding Hybrid Car Carrier

Since today’s cars are designed to be earth-friendly, it only makes sense that the ships bringing them to market should offer the same level of environmental protection. That’s why MOL takes a proactive approach to implementing green technologies. MOL-operated car carriers adopt an aerodynamic bow as the standard design to reduce wind pressure. The hybrid car carrier Emerald Ace , which was delivered in 2012, has solar panels on the deck to power vessel systems while the ship is in berth, achieving zero CO2 emissions.

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.

Containerships call at container terminals that have loading and unloading facilities and equipment. So generally, these vessels are not equipped with onboard cranes. The vessels can sail at higher speeds than other ship types to maintain stable calling schedules.

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 over 300m long came on the scene after 2000. Vessels continue to grow larger, with today’s biggest holding up to 18,000 TEUs.

Ocean Containers: Size, Numbering, and TEUs

Sizes, strength, external dimensions, and the numbering system for ocean containers are standardized by the International Standardization Organization (ISO).

  • There are basically two lengths for containers: 20 feet and 40 feet.
  • Types of containers include “dry containers,” “refrigerated (reefer) containers,” “open top containers,” and “tank containers,” and are selected according to their intended use.
  • 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 Units.” A 20-foot container is 1 (one) TEU. A 40-foot container is counted as 2 TEUs.