Cargoship vs Passenger ship: 10 Main Differences(Explained)

Cargo ships also called merchant ships, which only carry cargo. The 4 major cargo ships are container ships, oil tankers, bulk carriers, and gas carriers. Passenger ships are commonly seen as cruise ships, ferries, etc.

The major difference between cargo ships and passenger ships is cargo ships transport freight, and passenger ships transport people.

Purpose of ships

All ships are designed with a purpose in their mind. The Cargo ship’s design is to move more cargo in an efficient way. Passenger ships’ design is letting people enjoy their stay on the boat and at the same time transport them to their destination safely.

The purpose of cargo ships is to move cargo, so different cargo ships have different designs to fit their purpose. For example, the majority of container ships are equipped with cranes on the ship, so they can load and unload containers quickly. A tanker ship has 3 or 4 huge tankers on the ship so it can separate and carry liquid. Some of the dry cargo ships also have different apartments to separate different cargoes.

Compare to cargo ships passenger ships are livable, and comfortable for people to stay in.

Passenger ships are designed to carry people. People are not like cargo, can not stack on top of each other, or survive without food or water for several months. Passenger ships may have 3 or 4 decks to fit different accommodations to entertain people.

Amount of people on board

Normally a cargo ship has 18 crew members on board. Most are over 20 crews, but It is rare for a cargo ship to have more than 30 crews on board, even on the supertanker or big container ships.

Occasionally a cargo ship will have few passengers on board and the number is about 3~5 people, seldom going beyond 12.

A passenger ship has more crew members and carries a lot more people than a cargo ship. Commonly a passenger ship can carry roughly 200 crew members, 2000~3000 passengers on board.

Cruise ships compete with each other on the service so the passenger-to-crew ratio is from 4 to 1, lower to 3 to 1, or 1 to 1 on some luxurious cruise lines. Just imagine a cruise ship with 500 passengers and at the same time 500 crew members, that’s a lot of people in a limited space, no wonder cruise ships are built with 10 decks, 15 decks, or even more. They need the space to hold so many people.

Based on the cruise ship ” Symphony of the seas” is the largest passenger ship in the world in the year 2018. This passenger ship is an 18-deck cruise ship, measuring 1,188 feet. This passenger ship can hold approximately 6680 passengers and 2200 crews on board.

This passenger ship is longer than an aircraft carrier. It is for sure a floating city packed with activities.

Accommodation on ships

The accommodation on a cargo ship is only for the crew so it is basic and small, no fancy stuff on a cargo vessel. The purpose of a cargo ship is to transport as much cargo as possible so it saves as much space as it can for cargo.

The accommodation on a cargo ship is basic necessities such as a small cabin for crew members, public restrooms or showers, kitchens, etc.

Big cargo ships do have better accommodations than small cargo ships, because they have more space, such as more spacious cabins with more furniture. but compared to passenger ships the accommodations on cargo ships can only call basic.

Passenger ships especially cruise ships have all luxuries on board to entertain people. Those luxury accommodations are shops, bars, movie theaters, party rooms, swimming pools, golf courses, and all kinds of recreational facilities.

Speed of ships

Cargoships are huge and heavy in general, so their speed is slow compared with many passenger ships. The average speed of a cargo ship is about 12~14 knots (14mph~16mph). Cargo ships can go as fast as 20 knots (23mph) but it is rare for a cargo ship to go beyond 30 knots(35mph).

The majority of cargo ships weigh over 100,000 tons. It takes a lot of power to move them. The fast the cargo ship goes the more fuel it uses, so it is more fuel efficient to sail slower.

Cruise ships can go twice fast as cargo ships. Most cruise ships can sail around 24 knots(27mph). Few ferries are capable to reach 36 knots(41mph).

Fuel usage

Fuel consumption is greatly decided by the size of the cargo ship and how fast it goes. A container ship with 8,000 TEU sail at 21 knots would consume 150 tons of bunker fuel per day. if this container ship travels at 24 knots then it consumes 225 tons of bunker fuel per day( based on

Maine fuel price is roughly $1000 per ton this year. A container ship with 8000 TEU, traveling at 21 knots would spend $150,000 per day on fuel.

A cruise ship can use approximately 150~250 tons of fuel per day. A cruise ship would spend $150,000~$250,0000 on fuel per day.

Cost of ships

The cost of ships depends on the size and function of the ship. The bigger the size the more expensive to build it.

The average price of a cruise ship is approximately 1 billion. Ferry boat has a big price variety. The small ferry under 100 feet costs around $30,0000~$80,0000, and the ferry with size over 100 feet costs around a couple of hundred million.

Cargo ship’s cost varied greatly by size and function too. A medium size oil tanker cost about $40 million. A medium size container ship cost about $80~$100 million. A big-size container ship costs over $150 million.

Charter cost

It is expensive to charter either passenger ships or cargo ships. The average price to charter a medium size yacht is around $1200 per day. The average price to charter a medium size cargo ship is around $10,000 per day.

$1200 to charter a medium size yacht is a bareboat price per day. if you need a full-service option with a captain, chef, etc, then the charter price can go as high as $20,000 per day.

Nuclear powered ships

There are very few nuclear-powered cargo ships, and close to none- nuclear-powered passenger ships. The major reason for so few nuclear-powered ships because of its high building cost and maintenance cost.

  • The nuclear reactor takes up too much space, which means less space for cargo, and passengers.
  • Crews on nuclear ships have to be specially trained so they are expensive to hire.
  • Nuclear-powered ships have to be well-built so the ship is expensive to buy.
  • Need specialty to maintain the nuclear ships regularly so the maintenance cost is high

Job Duty on ships

It is a physically and mentally demanding job to work on a ship. You have the privilege of traveling around the world but at the same time, you will experience homesickness, and work on the same job duty in a limited space 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Crews on board cargo ships work harder than crews on passenger ships.

Cargo ships are nonstop during their voyage, except at port. Crews on cargo ships are running in shifts for full 24 hours. The ship is running 24 hours so does the job duty on the ship. It is 24 hours, 7 days a week attention job to take care of the whole ship.

The jobs on a cargo ship include voyage planning, steering, navigation, planned maintenance, cleaning, etc. Most cargo ships have a tight time schedule, especially container ships, so they only stay at port for a short period of time like 24 hours, but the crews still need to work at the port to coordinate with the port operations.

Pay difference on ships

Salary varies greatly based on the type of vessel, and what company owns the vessel. Most marine experts state that crews get paid better on cargo ships than on passenger ships, and also get promoted quickly on cargo ships.

Most crews work on a ship 4~9 months long then shift. Crews on cargo ships do work hard than crews on passenger ships, and many times the crews need special training to handle certain cargo ships, such as oil tankers, and gas carriers.

The beginning salary of an engineer on a cargo ship is around $5,000 per month, when you are a chief engineer your salary could reach $9,000~$15,000 per month. A captain on a cargo ship’s salary is around $15000~$20,000 per month. The more experience you have the higher salary you will get.

The average salary for a crew on a cruise ship is around $2500/month. When you work on a cruise ship you have no cost on rent or food. Your only monthly cost is your personal things such as your clothes, your gadgets, etc.

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