lolo loading method

Customers looking to ship heavy breakbulk across an ocean have three principal modes of shipping at choice: ROLL-ON ROLL-OFF (RORO), LIFT-ON LIFT-OFF (LOLO), or container carriers.  What is break bulk cargo? Break bulk cargo is non containerised and is usually transported as individual pieces due to cargo often being oversized and overweight meaning freight containers cannot accommodate the cargo. Cargoes include goods such as construction equipment, oil and gas equipment, windmills, yachts or steel and is usually complicated to move from A to B. Depending on the cargo and the specific projects, forwarders have the choice between RORO and LOLO for such cargo types. How would you decide between the two methods? Read this article and never mix up RORO and LOLO again!


What is RORO?

 RO-RO stands for ROLL-ON/ROLL-OFF and means that specially designed ships for carrying wheeled cargo, such as cars, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers, and railroad cars can drive on and off from the ship on their own wheels through a vehicle platform. Elsewhere in the shipping industry, cargo is normally measured by metric tonnes, but RO-RO cargo is typically measured in lanes in metres (LIMs). The figures are arrived by multiplying the length and the breadth of the load paths – where the vehicles are stacked – with the totality of decks in the vessel. Alongside this civilian usage, RORO vessels are also utilised and incorporated in the naval sector to transport important naval freight.

Back in the 19th century, RO-RO was mainly used to transport trains. By 1950 Lift on Lift Off  was the to transfer cars by sea and a ship could fit between 500 and 3000 cars. However, two decades after by 1970 LOLO got replaced by RO-RO! The main reason was a purely car carrier (PCC) that was developed during this time period, that enabled cars to roll onto the RORO ship. Later this developed into Pure Car Truck Carrier (PCTC) in order to meet the demands for high and heavy cargo – and still used today.


Why do shippers use RORO?

RO-RO, that´s because the cargo stays in the boat until reaching the desired destination and then is rolling off the boat, this is definitely safer way than lifting on/off the ship, however, the main advantage is time! Rolling cargo on board of a vessel is faster than lifting it with a crane. Shippers tend to prefer this method especially in cases where high-value-added products are transported. With shipping companies investing in faster and more reliable ships, the gap between the two methods even increases in favor of RO-RO. Another benefit is that RO-RO is just easier and requires a less sophisticated logistics chain.

Different RO-RO Types explained

There are multiple different types of RO-RO which have been developed over the years due to technological advancements with the purpose to cover the transportation needs.

Pure Car (and Truck Carrier) RORO Ships

pure car roro ship

A PCC (Pure Car Carrier) is a kind of RORO ship which transports only cars; whereas a PCTC (Pure Car and Truck Carrier) transports not only cars but also trucks and other variations of four-wheeled vehicles. These kinds of vessels are quite large and quite conspicuous while on the water along with being quite sturdy. They are mainly used in the delivering of newer vehicles to their required exporting destination.

Container Vessel + RO-RO (ConRo) Ship

conro ship

RORO vessels that combine the features of both a traditional container vessel and a RORO ship are referred to as ConRo. Such vessels’ interiors are distributed in such a way that both their loads are evenly distributed and balanced. The maximum load that is transited by these vessels is between 20,000 to over 50,000 deadweight tonnes (DWT).

General Cargo + RO-RO Ship (GenRo) Ships

A normal cargo-carrying vessel equipped with the RoRo facility is termed as the GenRo. Slightly compacter and smaller as compared to the previous two categorizations, the GenRo is capable of carrying loads with approximate DWTs between 2,000 to almost 30,000.

RoPax Vessels

ropax vessel

RoPax is the reference given to a car carrying vehicle that also provides for voyagers’ living aboard the vessel. RoPax though is mainly used as a technical term, and these vessels are commonly called as ferries that transport vehicles and passengers across river docks.

Complete RORO Ships

A Complete RORO vessel is a kind of car carrier that is constructed with inclines both on its insides as well as on the outside. The vessel doesn’t have any hatchways and are used mainly in the high seas. They are self-contained and are capable of lading anywhere between 2,000 to around 40,000 deadweight tonnes


What does LOLO stand for? 

lift on lift off

LO-LO stands for lift-on/lift-off describes cargo ships with onboard cranes to load and unload cargo. However, these ships can be termed as geared vessels, because they have the cranes on the top.

Advantages of using LOLO

LOLO ships maintain vast amounts of space on top of the vessel (on the ship deck too), and space is flexible so that it can be altered to fit the needs of the freight that is lifted on for transportation. These types of ships were very popular for decades and used to transport cars from international locations. Both 20-foot containers and 40-foot containers can be shipped onboard. More importantly, shippers who have cargo that is too big for containers, such as a large car, can use a LOLO Vessel for transportation. Main advantages are both economic and ecological. In general, it is a less expensive system if it is included in a logistics chain that integrates rail transport and supports the high-volume cargo. As Julio Martinez Alarcon argued, LOLO is friendly to the environment and it is less expensive than RORO and finally offers higher load capacity.


Roro Lolo – How should you choose between the two different loading methods?

biggest roro ship

 After seeing the advantages of each, someone would say that if you want your products to reach their destination the shortest time that is possible, be as safe as it can be possible or in case that you want to transport your car from one country to another then RORO is what you need to go for.

On the other hand, if you want to keep costs down and you want to protect the environment from CO2 emissions and certainly speed is not your priority then maybe you turn to LOLO. Additionally, LOLO shipments providing more space which could be interesting for shippers that have high-volume cargo.

In the end, it completely depends on the cargo you want to ship and the budget & time you have. But no one knows what the future will bring! As Julio Martinez Alarcon said, the decision between LOLO and RORO is made on a case by case basis, because the BCO wants their products to reach the destination in the shortest possible time with keeping the costs as low as possible. He thinks the LOLO method could gain a competitive advantage in the future though because of its more ecological characteristics and the better adoption for long term projects.

Difficulties on finding RoRo LoLo?

Good news for you! There is a third option: SOC Containers! When you factor in all the trade-offs between the two cargo loading methods including security, conditions, rates, time frames and departures, always suggest clients transport for example their cars with a shipping container. With Container xChange we made it very easy for you to find SOC Containers in 2500 globally. Reach out to us if you need equipment or any advice on the choice between RORO and LOLO and let us know how you like this article.