BG Verkehr / Dienststelle Schiffssicherheit
Referat Nautik
Brandstwiete 1
20457 Hamburg


Peer Lange
Phone: +49 40 361 37-319
Fax: +49 40 361 37-204
Mobile: +49 171 882 70 68

Webcode for this Content: 16297569

Cargo ships

What is a cargo ship?

A cargo ship is, according to German maritime legislation, a ship that is inter alia not a passenger ship, ship of traditional build, recreational craft or fishing vessels. The term „cargo ship“ covers for example the following types of ships:

  • container ships,
  • multi purpose ships,
  • bulk carrier,
  • tanker,
  • coasters,
  • small craft and
  • special vessels.

In contrast, passenger ships are designed to carry more than 12 passengers. Persons other than passengers are regarded as crew.

Ship safety requirements for cargo ships differ depending on the ship’s size. The most significant differences concern cargo ships either below or above a gross tonnage of 500.

bild frachtschiffe

Cargo ships of 500 GT and above are covered by the SOLAS convention

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) establishes mandatory safety requirements for cargo ships of 500 GT and above, engaged on international voyages. International voyage means that a ship is operating between ports of at least two different states. The SOLAS convention contains requirements regarding ship design, fire protection on board, navigation equipment and cargo-related safety provisions.

Cargo ships of less than 500 GT are covered by the German Ship Safety Ordinance

Cargo ships of less than 500 GT or engaged in national trade are not covered by the international SOLAS convention. For those cargo ships German legislation applies, mainly the "Schiffssicherheitsverordnung" (Ship Safety Ordinance). German law applies to these cargo ships, in particular the German "Schiffssicherheitsverordnung" (ship safety ordinance), annex 1a part 6 on safety requirements for cargo ships and part 7 regarding load line requirements.

The "Schiffssicherheitsverordnung" (Ship Safety Ordinance) include, inter alia, requirements regarding:

  • ship's equipment,
  • the required ship certificates,
  • rules of conduct for the crew, as well as
  • further technical details.

The "Schiffssicherheitsverordnung" (Ship Safety Ordinance) applies to cargo ships, whether seagoing or solely operating on inland waterways. An inland navigation vessel is designed to operate on inland waters and waterways. Different to seagoing ships the required standard of dynamic stability, navigational equipment and life saving equipment is less rigorous.

Cargo ships with more than 100 GT with special purposes (e.g. tugs, service vessels, installation ships) are special ships. Cargo ships with less than 100 GT belong to the category small vessels.

(back to top)