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RORO (Roll-On, Roll-Off) Car Carrier Vessels

RORO (Roll-On, Roll-Off) Vessels feature specially constructed vessels that allow cargo to be loaded and unloaded through doors in the ship's hull. Cargo moves in and out of the vessel on wheeled loading devices or under its own propulsion (as in a motorized vehicles). It looks the same as a ferryboat, which goods and containers can be driven usually via a ramp. Beneficiaries of this system include higher efficiency to manage loading and discharging (easiness and quickness of cargo handling) than air freight and containership delivery. Ro-Ro and container vessels look very much alike, from a hull form design point of view, with one exception. Ro-Ro vessels with a stern ramp require special consideration due to the large widths of the transom, which complicates the hull design.

The military advantages of RO/RO ships include the capability for rapid loading and discharge of military vehicles and non-self-deployable aircraft, and open deck areas well suited to the carriage of outsized military cargo. Their military disadvantages include their relative unsuitability for carriage of sustaining supplies and ammunition (in comparison with general cargo and containerships) and their limited availability, because their market sector is much reduced compared with containerships.

Most American military transport ships are ROROs, and European militaries are increasingly looking to the commercial market for stand-by RORO assets. It was only with the new century that China acquired a domestic supply of RORO ships. With China's growing automobile export market, the Chinese RORO fleet can be expected to grow in the future. RORO ships are an essential component to the American style of long range global power projection. Historically, as a continental power, China has not had a call for such a capability, and Chinese RORO ships [in contrast to their ROPAX vessels] have not been publicly exercised in a military role, as of 2012.

The first large, high-speed roll-on-roll-off vessel ever built in China was christened the "Stena Foreteller" in 2002 in the port city in Liaoning Province, northeast China. The 12,300-ton vessel was built by Dalian Shipyard for Swedish shipping company Stena. The vessel was up to the advanced level of the ship-building technology for ro-ro vessels, and the first of its kind built in China. The shipyard was building two similar vessels for the Swedish company. With automatic navigational capabilities in heavy gale winds, the vessel can travel at speeds of up to 23 knots per hour and carry up to 500 trucks.

The largest Ro-Ro built in China up to 2004was built in by HuangHai Shipyard in RongCheng city of ShanDong province. These two large ships are the largest Ro-Ro designed and built in China. It has an overall length of 160m, tonnage of 20000dwts speed of 20.5 knots. It has a capacity of 2000 vehicles and 1300 passengers. And it can resist the grade 8 typhoon in Bohai Bay so that it can meet the international lines demands. The 14,250 ton Deadweight 4000 Roll-On/Roll-Of Car Carrier is built as a single screw, diesel driven roll on/roll off car carrier, intended for carrying a wide variety of vehicles. The vessel has 9 tiers of decks car stowage, and the part of 10th deck to be also used for car stowage. Motor cars can be loaded/unloaded by driving themselves through outboard side door/ramp at No.4 deck amidship on starboard side, and quarter ramp at No.5 car deck aft on starboard side. The 6th and 8th deck are liftable.

In 2004 China set a target of exporting automobiles and components worth 70 to US$100 billion a year by 2010. If successful, the exports would account for 40 percent of total automobile and component sales in China at the time. China's auto exports hit a record high of 340,000 units in 2006, more than double 2005's figure.

In August 2006 a strategic alliance was established by between the China Ocean Shipping Corporation [COSCO], the China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation and the country's major automobile exporters. This was to facilitate the communication among domestic exporters and to curb vicious competition through price cuts. At that time China's automobile output accounted for about 10 percent of the world's total, but its export volume represented less than one percent. COSCO Group started to develop its own carriers after signing a 15-year car shipping strategic cooperation agreement with 17 domestic carmakers, including Chery, JAC and Chang'an in 2006. Even during the most difficult period of the global economic crisis, COSCO never gave up the development plan. Labor and material costs in the Chinese shipbuilding industry are lower than those in Japan, South Korea and European countries, where COSCO previously rented car carriers, so the shipping costs will fall once the company manages its own fleet.

In 2009 China overtook the United States to become the world's top auto maker and market, boosted by government stimulus measures. Annual sales rose 46.15 percent year-on-year to 13.64 million units. Output increased 48.3 percent to 13.79 million units. Passenger car sales were up 52.93 percent to 10.33 million units, and production was 10.38 million units, up 54.11 percent year-on-year. The brisk sales in China is in contrast with the United States where 10.43 million units were sold last year, 2.8 million units less than in 2008, as the global financial crisis kept US consumers out of the showroom. In 2009 the Chinese government outlined its auto export strategy for maintaining steady growth in the auto export industry. It expected to achieve an annual 10 percent growth from 2009 to 2010 and a 20 percent growth in 2015. By 2020, Chinese auto exports will account for 10 percent of total international auto trade.

China's automobile export market is still very much in the infancy stages, with its present target markets being Southeast Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. The country still requires a strong international brand. From January to July 2010, the production and sales of automobiles both exceeded 10 million, up by 44 percent and 43 percent, respectively, compared with the same period last year, with the growth rate dropping 5 percent. By 2011 growth in the automobile industry in China was slowing, and the gap between vehicle exports and imports continued to widen. During the first five months of 2011, China exported 225,400 cars, an increase of 56.7 percent over the same period in 2010. Among them, the top five brands are Chery with 55,200 units, Chang'an Auto with 35,100 units, JAC with 28,100, Great Wall Motor Co Ltd with 26,800, and Dongfeng Motor Group Co Ltd with 24,600. According to China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) statistics, passenger vehicle imports in August totaled 316,177 units, 83 percent higher than 2010, while exports from that month hit a record 223,776, 37 percent higher than 2010. CAAM officials attributed the deficit to recovery in overseas markets, as well as the state of the domestic market this year.

As the world's biggest car market, China consumes the overwhelming majority of the cars made in the nation. By 2011 about 5 percent of the cars are exported to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa and South America. This is up from one percent five years earlier.

The first “China design and build” Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) vehicle carrier was launched on June 24, 2009 at Zhoushan shipyard marking a major advance in China’s building capability. The China Ocean Shipping Company "COSCO Spirit" has a fully loaded displacement of 14,500 tons, capable of carrying 5000 vehicles with a design speed of 20 knots. Its dimensions are: 182.8 meters in length, 32.2 meters in width and 34 meters high. It has a total of 9 stationary and 3 adjustable decks to accommodate vehicles of different heights. Just like other modern RoRo’s, the COSCO Spirit is fully automated and allows for single-crew-piloting. COSCO cited the increase in automobile imports as the sole reason to build such a fleet and indeed in January 2009, China surpassed the US as the world’s largest car market.

Designed by the Shanghai Design Institute and manufactured at the China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co (COSCO) Zhoushan shipyard south of Shanghai, COSCO Tengfei and COSCO Shengshi deliver Chinese-made cars to South American countries and carry European cars on the return trip. The MV COSCO Tengfei car carrier, which can hold up to 5,000 cars and trucks, departed from Shanghai's Waigaoqiao port in the Pudong New Area in June 2011. This was the second delivery by this type of vessel following a successful shipment by MV COSCO Shengshi in February 2011. The carriers, 182.8 meters in length, 32.2 meters in width and 14.95 meters in depth, have a deadweight tonnage (DWT) of 14,500. Equipped with three adjustable decks, they can hold cars of different heights. Each of the two ships cost $53 million.

The Chinese shipbuilding industry has intensified the export of ship newbuildings. A large number of customers are from Europe and especially Germany. One of the major design companies working for the Chinese shipyards is the Shanghai Merchant Ship Design and Research Institute, CSSC (SDARI). The portfolio of SDARI covers a wide variety of ship types and sizes, including designs for a 2,000 car ro-ro ship [140.5 meters long], 5,000 vehicle ro-ro ship [182.8 meters long], 6,700 car ro-ro ship [199.9 meters long], and 8,000 car ro-ro ship [227.9 meters long]. Established in 1964, Shanghai Merchant Ship Design & Research Institute (SDARI) is a ship design consultant under China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC). SDARI has extensive experience in designing various types of ships, e.g. bulkers, container ships, tankers, multi-purpose vessel, RoRo, offshore engineering vessel and etc., and has accumulated more than 800 as-built designs in the past four decades. SDARI provides the entire range of service from the conceptual development to the workshop drawings and is the market leader in respect of ship design and development in China. Growing together with the Chinese ship-building industry, SDARI has been gaining good reputation in the world shipping and shipbuilding market, and with continue her endeavors in providing safe, environment-friendly, reliable and cost-effective designs.

In 2018 there was a public demonostration of Dual use naval asset, merchant fleet and military integration. 20,000 gross tonnage roll-on/roll-off (RORO) ship ChangDalong, with 2000 regular auto capacity. RORO engineering standard upgraded to support transport of MBT and other armored vehicles.

Plaque translation:

  • Carrying out national defence requirement of 20,000 ton car ro-ro ship.
  • 140.5 m long
  • 24.4 m wide
  • 8 level car parking
  • 3rd and 5th level of aft/rear section is 4.5 m high. Suitable for carrying heavy military equipment.
  • Developed and installed kitchen, restroom, shower modules/containers and other support facilities to satisfy troop and crew living requirements during voyage.
  • Addition of helicopter platform, life saving, and firefighting equipment
  • Reserved military command and communication equipment interface connections

After carrying out national defence requirements, the ship is capable of long distance delivery of two fully equipped mechanised battalions. The ship is a "Dalong" passenger rolling ship built to implement national defense requirements. The ship has an 8-deck vehicle deck, a helicopter take-off and landing area, and a military command post and long-distance life support equipment are reserved; equipped with a first side thruster, two tail side thrusters, and good maneuverability. The ship usually carries out the cargo task of the Weifang Yingkou route.

RORO ship ChangDalong

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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:09:01 ZULU