RoRo is a shortened term for a type of vehicle transport in which the cargo can be “rolled on and rolled off” of the transport vehicle, which is most often a large cargo ship. (Air freight can also be shipped using ro-ro service, which is simply a term used to describe the loading and unloading process). Here’s how it works.
The vehicle is driven onto the boat (rolled on), shipped to its destination port and driven off (rolled off). Typically, RoRo service is used in international and overseas auto shipping as the more affordable alternative to delivery via air freight.
Roll-on/Roll-off shipping is usually reserved for larger cargo ships since it takes considerable space to deliver vehicles with this method and also requires enough vehicles to be moved at once for it to be financially feasible. Some ro-ro ships can carry hundreds of cars at once. This is how autos are most frequently transported to and from the United States.
Types of Vehicles Shipped Using Roll-on/Roll-off Car Shipping
Basically, anything that has wheels or can be safely and securely placed on wheels can be delivered using the ro-ro method. Here are some of the common vehicle types delivered using roll-on/roll-off shipping:
- Construction equipment
- International cargo
- Military vehicles
History of Ro-Ro Cargo Transport
Roll-on/Roll-off transport has existed since the emergence of the steam train in the 1800s. The popularity of the steam engine and the developing railway infrastructure in the U.S. and across the world required a way to move locomotive cars over large bodies of water.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that Ro-Ro transport became a practical way to transport oversize wheeled vehicles commercially. During the 1970s, the dramatic increase in production, import and export of autos required more efficient routes of delivery to overseas markets. RoRo became a popular option that began to open up to consumers as well as businesses.
Roll-on/roll-off service proved to be a very helpful for maritime cargo transport as it provided a much more efficient way to load and unload vehicles. Containerized shipping developed alongside the growth of ro-ro transport, further streamlining the process of shipping goods internationally.
U.S. Cities with RoRo Ports
- New York
- Los Angeles
Online Ro-Ro Resources
Safety of Ro-Ro Ferries - Safety statistics from the International Maritime Organization regarding RoRo ferries and their safety as a method of delivering cargo.
RO-RO Ship & Dock Safety - An overview of safety guidelines for Ro-Ro shipping from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Written By:Joe Webster
Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.
After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.
With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.