Cargo RORO (or RORO Cargo) ships are vessels that carry rolling cargo (light and heavy vehicles or container vans on chassis) and tracked vehicles like heavy equipment. For that, these ships have ramps and several levels of car decks connected by ramps on the inside or by lifts. They basically differ from container ships on two counts. One, the Cargo RORO ships wheel in their load while container ships handle their load LOLO (Load On, Load Off). In layman’s term that means lifting the container vans by the use of booms or by gantry cranes (sometimes a reach stacker or cranes are also used). Second, a significant number of the load of Cargo RORO ships are vehicles. Since those vehicles have drivers in many cases, Cargo RORO ships have a small passenger accommodations (mainly small cabins) for the owners or the truckers. Some amenities are provided for them too.
Cargo RORO ships differ from Pure Car Carriers (PCCs) and vehicle carriers in that the latter two basically carry new vehicles for delivery to overseas divisions of car companies and to car dealers. So in general the two latter-named are accompanied by just a few drivers or maybe by none at all.
In the world, it is in Europe where there is a highest concentration of Cargo RORO ships. It spans from Northern Europe to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea which connects Europe to North Africa. Even the Black Sea has Cargo RORO ships. These Cargo RORO ships of Europe serve as the “bridges of the sea” for the European truckers and the tourists who brought along their vehicles.
Japan also has Cargo RORO ships but not to the extent of the proliferation in Europe. Other areas of the world also have that kind of ship but also not to the extent of concentration of Europe.
Cargo RORO or RORO Cargo ships have not been used before in any significant number in the Philippines. Those that came before were converted to RORO-passenger (ROPAX) ships like what Carlos A. Gothong Lines did with the MV Our Lady of Sacred Heart and MV Our Lady of Medjugorje. Before the two came, there was the MV Wilcon 1 and MV Wilcon 4 of William Lines and the MV Sinulog of Escano Lines but those were ROLO Cargo or Cargo LOLO ships which means they have ramps for rolling cargo and cargo booms for the container vans. The three had limited passenger accommodations and are all gone now. In recent years there were also a few ROLO Cargo ships that were acquired by other shipping companies but they do not carry passengers.
The first local shipping company that invested in a series of Cargo RORO ships was Sulpicio Lines. Between 1997 and 2002 that company acquired the MV Sulpicio Express Uno, the MV Sulpicio Express Dos and the MV Sulpicio Express Tres. However, those three Cargo RORO ships are now all gone to the breakers and only recently. Maybe Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. (PSACC), the current name now of Sulpicio Lines realized that the engines of the three were too big for its container capacity.
In recent years, there was a shipping company which seems to have decided they will make their mark in using Cargo RORO ships. This is the Asian Marine Transport Corporation (AMTC) of Cebu. Their first three ships in their Super Shuttle RORO series were either Cargo RORO ships or vehicle carriers. However, they converted all three as RORO-Passenger (ROPAX) ships here but their passenger capacities were not as big as MV Our Lady of Sacred Heart and MV Our Lady of Medjugorje. Maybe that decision was affected by the fact that liner passengers are no longer as numerous compared to the 1990’s and that they were just beginning in liner shipping (but in short-distance RORO shipping they have already been awhile already).
Starting with the next ship in the series, the MV Super Shuttle RORO 5, Asian Marine Transport no longer converted the ship to carry passengers. And this became the pattern from MV Super Shuttle RORO 6 (which was a barge carrier and not a Cargo RORO ship) to MV Super Shuttle RORO 12 (which were all Cargo RORO ships). Recently, an MV Super Shuttle RORO 14 arrived for them which has not yet been refitted. There is no Super Shuttle RORO 4 or 13 in the series because those numbers supposedly bring bad luck. Meanwhile, MV Super Shuttle RORO 6 is not sailing because of an engine room fire while in the shipyard and it is not sailing because of a dispute in the settlement between the company and the shipyard.
All the Cargo RORO ships of Asian Marine Transport Corp. (AMTC) from “5” to “14” were just acquired starting in 2012. So that means the push of AMTC in container shipping was relatively recent (but the first three in the series can also carry container vans but they were not yet big then in container shipping). Their container vans are brand-new and most were chartered from Waterfront Leasing, a company specializing in the rental of container vans.
These Cargo RORO ships of Asian Marine Transport Corp. were all built in Europe except for MV Super Shuttle RORO 7 and the MV Super Shuttle RORO 11 which were built in Japan. Although the ships are no longer young, all are still sailing reliably except for the fire-hit MV Super Shuttle RORO 6. Generally, the load of the ships are container vans, both aboard chassis and not. Cars and SUVs (sports utility vehicles) are also loaded and the bulk of these are brand-new and which are destined for car dealers in Visayas and Mindanao.
The ports of origin of the Cargo RORO ships of Asian Marine Transport Corp. are Manila and Batangas. Most of their Cargo RORO ships would then call in Cebu. They also have a route that passes through Iloilo and Bacolod. Their ports of call in Mindanao are Davao, General Santos City, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro and Nasipit.
The Cargo RORO ships of Asian Marine Transport Corp. are not cargo liners in the strict sense of the word as they can be flexible in departures according to the load and their route assignment is not really fixed and it is sometimes intervened by radio from the main office. That also means their arrivals in a particular port are also not fixed.
These are the particulars of the Cargo RORO ships of Asian Marine Transport Corporation:
Super Shuttle RORO 5 (arrived 2012)
Original name is Tajura. IMO 7822500.
Built by Neue Schlichting Werft in Travemunde, Germany in 1980.
Dimensions are 114.0 meters by 17.5 meters by 11.7 meters.
Dimensional weights are 6,105 gross tons and 2,900 deadweight tons.
Engines and Speed: 2 X 2,200hp MaK diesels. 16 knots top speed, originally.
Super Shuttle RORO 6 (arrived 2012)
Original name is Este Submerger II of J. Hauschildt. IMO 8324701.
Built by Rickmers in Bremerhaven, Germany in 1984.
Dimensions are 106.0 meters by 19.6 meters by 10.9 meters.
Dimensional weights are 6,786 gross tons and 4,490 deadweight tons.
Engines and Speed: 2 x 1,820hp Krupp-MaK diesels. 13 knots top speed.
Super Shuttle RORO 7 (arrived 2012)
Original name is Dia Ace. IMO 9117727.
Built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Shimoneseki, Japan in 1994.
Dimensions are 146.0 meters by 23.4 meters by 13.2 meters.
Dimensional weights are 13,540 gross tons and 4,339 deadweight tons.
Engine and Speed: 1 x 6,900hp NKK-Pielstick diesel. 17 knots top speed.
Super Shuttle RORO 8 (arrived 2012)
Original name is Dana Cimbria. IMO 8413992.
Built by Frederikshavns Vft in Frederikshavns, Denmark in 1986.
Dimensions are 145.0 meters by 21.6 meters by 12.1 meters.
Dimensional weights are 12,189 gross tons and 6,897 deadweight tons.
Engine and Speed: 1 x 7,800hp MaK diesel. 17.5 knots top speed, originally.
Super Shuttle RORO 9 (arrived 2013)
Original name is Bore Queen of Bore Line. IMO 7902647.
Built by Rauma-Repola in Rauma, Finland in 1980.
Dimensions are 170.9 meters by 23.0 meters by 17.5 meters.
Dimensional weights are 17,884 gross tons and 11,400 deadweight tons.
Engines and Speed: 2 MaK diesels. Total: 16,000hp. 19 knots top speed.
Super Shuttle RORO 10 (arrived 2014)
Original name is Finnmerchant. IMO 8020684.
Built by Rauma-Repole in Rauma, Finland in 1982.
Dimensions are 157.6 meters by 25.3 meters by 17.3 meters.
Dimensional weights are 20,865 gross tons and 13,866 deadweight tons.
Engines and Speed: 2 x 7,500hp Wartsila diesels. 19 knots top speed.
Super Shuttle RORO 11 (arrived 2014)
Original name is Dana Caribia. IMO 7725166.
Built by Nippon Kokan KK in Shimizu, Japan in 1979.
Dimensions are 161.4 meters by 24.2 meters by 14.3 meters.
Dimensional weights are 14,805 gross tons and 10,470 deadweight tons.
Engines and Speed: 2 x 3,950hp Burmeister & Wain (B&W) diesels. 15 knots.
Super Shuttle RORO 12 (arrived 2015)
Original name is Mercandian Gigant of Per Henriksen. IMO 8222733.
Built by Danyard A/S in Frederikshavn, Denmark in 1984.
Dimensions are 160.5 meters by 20.7 meters by 12.3 meters.
Dimensional weights are 14,410 gross tons and 9,200 deadweight tons.
Engine and Speed: 1 x 6,500 Mak diesel. 16 knots top speed, originally.
This ship was formerly the ROCON I of William Lines which came in 1995. In the great merger that produced the WG&A Philippines she was renamed to SuperRORO 200. She was sold abroad in 1997.
Super Shuttle RORO 14 (arrived 2016)
Original name is Mercury Ace. IMO 8509466.
Built by Usuki Tekkosho in Usuki, Japan in 1985.
Dimensions are 96.9 meters x 20.2 meters.
Dimensional weights are 6,974 gross tons and 3,199 deadweight tons.
Engine and Speed: 1 marine diesel. 13.5 top speed, originally.
A total of 9 Cargo RORO ships. The purchases of those Cargo RORO ships were mainly backed by the government-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
In the main, each carry about 300 TEUs in a voyage plus vehicles in the top deck (and some on the bottom deck at the engine level). Asian Marine Transport System now has a spic and span terminal in Batangas under the name of Super Shuttle RORO, a brand they are now developing. In Cebu, however, they are looking for a new hub as they are leaving their old hub and port in Pier 8 in Mandaue, Cebu.
I just hope Asian Marine Transport System don’t find the engine size/fuel consumption to container capacity of the Cargo ROROs difficult to manage. With the way they are running the ships where there are long in-port hours, the advantage of Cargo RORO ships which is fast loading and unloading is in the main neutralized. They sometimes sail on one engine to save on fuel but one advantage of their fleet is it has the speed to turn or when needed. Container ships in the Philippines might have small engines but they don’t have the speed really (except for a few). On one hand though their top decks (and bottom decks) are really good for carrying vehicles and that is their advantage over the container ships.
This Cargo RORO experiment of Asian Marine Transport System is worth watching and studying.