The transport of heavy goods vehicles by sea can be done by ferry services or motorways of the sea. If the ferry services between islands do not represent an alternative to all-road transport, the other links between European ports, along with the motorways of the sea do. This is why the development of the latter is one of Europe’s maritime policy priorities: motorways of the sea enable the conveyance of goods from one member country to another by taking advantage of the socio-ecological advantages specific to maritime transport. A few motorways of the sea are currently in service in Europe, between Zeebrugge (BE) and Bilbao (SP) for example, or between Montoir (FR) and Vigo (SP). The shipowner Lineas Suardiaz had been operating a service for 30 years between Montoir and Vigo in order to supply the Citroën factory located in Vigo of the automotive manufacturer PSA. Suardiaz has been substituted by the group Trasmediterranea / UECC. The ship carries both brand new vehicles and trailers loaded with parts.
Heavy goods transport may be accompanied (this means that the entire vehicle – tractor + trailer – and driver are transported) or unaccompanied (without driver). But the unaccompanied market requires a logistical organisation by road carriers which only those companies with an international presence or a network of partners possess, enabling them to pick up the trailer at the end of its sea journey. Several types of ship can be used by ferry lines and maritime motorways.
Roll-on/roll-off or « Ro-Ro- » ships can only take heavy goods vehicles and semi-trailers. However, they can also take ITUs if they are loaded on to trailers for example used in ports.
Ro-pax ships can take vehicles and passengers. On the left of this photograph can be seen the space reserved for vehicles and on the right above the deck level the superstructure for passenger accommodation and the bridge.
Ro-Lo or ConRo ships can take vehicles by horizontal loading, as well as containers by loaded vertically.
Photo source: CMA-CGM.