RoRo: The Clear Choice for Rail Cargo

DATE 13.05.2020

There are roughly 619 passenger rail projects including mass transit, light rail, heavy rail and high-speed infrastructure in the world, and these numbers are only likely to increase given the rising population and urbanisation. Rail manufacturers look for transport and logistics carriers that offer the best solutions for their rail products from multiple origins going to multiple international destinations. One may ask what mode of ocean transport is the best for shipping rail cargo. Let me outline the three top advantages of using RoRo (Roll-On Roll Off) vessels.


Rail projects are commonly planned years in advance, with railcars produced in one or more origins and then transported internationally to meet a project deadline. Timing is therefore critical when delivering rail cars, so having a liner service that offers frequent sailings and fixed schedules gives the customer the chance to plan ahead; consequently reducing both risk and overall costs.


Loading breakbulk cargoes such as rail products on RoRo vessels is quite different in that there is no high lifting involved. The railcars are lashed and secured on rolltrailers equipped with integrated rails, and are simply rolled on board the appropriate deck. For railcars transported on truck-trailers, our specially designed Höegh bridge allows the direct transfer of railcars from the truck-trailer, to the rolltrailer. This makes the operation safer and more efficient than other modes of transportation as it ensures safe handling regardless of weather conditions and avoids possible damage often caused by lifting heavy commodities.

The safety continues during ocean transport, when stowing the cargo underdeck in ventilated cargo holds. Protected from elements such as seawater and humidity the valuable commodities are kept safe, clean and dry until they reach the port of destination. This means that customers do not need to pack the cargo, making it a more affordable option than other transport methods.


Höegh has transported trains all over the world and over the years we have developed our vessels and equipment to ensure safe transportation of breakbulk cargo. RoRo vessels are specifically designed to carry high, heavy, long and wide cargo, and with our latest vessel model, the New Horizon we are able to cater for a wider range of breakbulk commodities such as railcars. These are some of the world’s largest RoRo vessels, offering up to 6.5 metres of free deck height, 12 metres of ramp width and ramp capacity of 375 MT.

Railcars built nowadays have longer carriages to cater for higher passenger capacity. Working with our customers, we developed the Extended rolltrailer concept specially designed for rail units longer than 27 metres. It involves placing two railed rolltrailers in front of each other and connecting them with the Höegh Bridge. Transfer from truck to Extended rolltrailer is performed in the vessel’s cargo hold. Being able to transport longer railcars, means that the customer does not need to deconstruct or separate the cargo into pieces, saving them time and money.

Yes, there are other modes of transport out there to ship rail cargo, however with the advantages of reliability, safety and flexibility provided by RoRo vessels, I believe this is the clear choice for rail cargo.

Stian Omli is Head of Sales Americas and Global Breakbulk Sales Lead in Höegh Autoliners. He holds 17 years of experience in the maritime sector - primarily in a commercial capacity. Stian has a Master degree with particular emphasis on international management, export strategies and marketing from the University or Surrey.

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