Ship Types

The type of ships you could train on for your career at sea.


The type of ships you could train on for your career at sea.

Within the British Merchant Navy, the sheer diversity of vessel types provide for a fascinating choice of different work environments and the opportunity for a varied and interesting career.

We feature here just a flavour of the variety of ships that you could train on with the SSTG. There are wide-ranging opportunities for Electro-Technical Officer Cadets, Engineer Officer Cadets and Deck Officer Cadets.

Aggregate Mining Vessels

Aggregate mining vessels specialise in the extraction of sand and gravel from the seabed for use in the construction industry. The aggregate can only be removed from licensed areas and these are strictly controlled by the government.

Extremely precise navigation is required to ensure that the vessel’s position is exactly controlled. All mining ships are fitted with a sealed ‘black box’ that records the vessel’s position enabling officials ashore to track and monitor exactly where sand and gravel are being extracted from, hence safeguarding the nation’s natural raw resources.

SSTG Member Companies that operate this type of vessel include:

  • Britannia Aggregates
  • CEMEX Marine
  • Hanson Aggregates
  • Tarmac Marine

See all SSTG Members

Cable Repair Vessels

Ninety-eight percent of the communications capacity worldwide is provided by cables laid beneath the world’s oceans. Crews operate specialist cable vessels to control the complex operations of the laying, retrieving and repairing of cables – tasks that often take place at enormous depths beneath the ocean.

SSTG Member Companies that operate this type of vessel include:

  • Global Marine Systems

See all SSTG Members

Container Vessels

Container ships are the main ship type used to transport the world’s manufactured goods. Every day, consumer products as diverse as iPods and Kindles, scooters and bicycles, greenhouses and kitchen equipment roll off the production lines in the Far East and elsewhere. These need to be transported overseas from factory to market aboard fleets of huge container vessels, with the largest measuring in at over 300 metres in length and capable of carrying more than 22,000 twenty-foot long containers.

SSTG Member Companies that operate this type of vessel include:

  • CMA CGM (UK) Shipping
  • Evergreen Marine (UK)

See all SSTG Members

Cruise Ships

The majority of passenger vessels are cruise ships. These are purpose-built specifically to deliver pleasure voyages, where passenger experiences are enhanced by on-board amenities to be as important as the different destinations to be visited on the cruise.

The cruise industry has seen remarkable growth over the last twenty years, with the largest vessels now carrying over 5,000 passengers at any one time. Over the same period, the growth in the number of vessels has meant a steady rise in the volume of passengers carried worldwide. It is estimated that there are 21 million passengers taking cruises every year; an increase of over 350% in the last 20 years.

SSTG Member Companies that operate this type of Vessel include:

  • Saga Shipping

See all SSTG Members

Passenger and Vehicle Ferries

Indispensable for an island nation, a variety of vessels service the demand for moving vehicles and people across the seas to neighbouring countries.

Ferries range considerably in size but whether the traffic they carry is commercial freight, holiday-makers’ cars or passengers on foot, ferries are designed with efficiency and comfort in mind.

SSTG Member Companies that operate this type of vessel include:

  • P & O Ferries
  • Seatruck Ferries

See all SSTG Members

General Cargo
A general cargo vessel is defined as any vessel that has been designed to carry a wide range of packaged cargoes from one location to another.

Over time the specific needs of industry and consumer demands has resulted in vessels being adapted to provide for particular trades or routes. These vessels are also designed to transport ‘project’ cargoes which will often be large, oversized or heavy equipment that it is not possible to carry on other types of vessels.

Many of these general cargo vessels servicing traditional markets will be equipped with their own cranes. This makes it possible to visit smaller ports often found in inaccessible places and discharge and load their own cargo.

See all SSTG Members

Jack-up Vessels

Jack-up rigs are a specialist type of self-elevating installation with three or four legs that can be extended, or ‘jacked-up’, either above or below the hull. Jack-ups will often be towed to site, but may be self-propelled with the legs extended above the hull. Once on site, the legs are deployed through the water and into the sea bed. This anchors the rig and holds the vessel’s hull above the water level.

Generally such vessels work in relatively shallow water of less than 120 metres, although the latest vessels are capable to working in deeper waters.

Jack-up rigs or platforms may be used for a range of tasks including exploratory drilling and offshore wind farm installation and servicing tasks.

The current estimate for the total number of Jack-up rigs in operation is 540.

SSTG Member Companies that operate this type of Vessel include:

  • Seajacks UK

See all SSTG Members

Oil and Gas Exploration Support Vessels
A vast range of specialist vessels play an integral role in the exploration and production of oil and gas from beneath some of the world’s wildest oceans. Supply vessels carry essential supplies to the rigs, including everything from fresh water, food and sanitary supplies, to lubricating oil, spare parts and new machinery.

Enormous skill is required to navigate and accurately hold the position of a supply vessel whilst it is unloading or loading within feet of a rig when high winds and waves are pounding the ship.

See all SSTG Members

Standby, Supply and Multi-Role Vessels

The oil and gas exploration and production industries of the world are supported by a vast range of very specialist vessels which include standby vessels.

These vessels provide emergency and rescue services, as well as undertaking more routine tasks such as maintaining exclusion zones around installations and moving personnel and supplies between local facilities.

SSTG Member Companies that operate this type of vessel include:

  • Boston Putford Offshore Safety
  • North Star Shipping

See all SSTG Members

Survey Vessels

Survey vessels are another example of the highly specialised ships plying the oceans of the world carrying out very complex and demanding roles.

These vessels often carry additional personnel who will be experts in their own field, such as geologists, meteorologists, seismologists and scientists.

SSTG Member Companies that operate this type of vessel include:

  • Gardline

See all SSTG Members

Tankers (including Product Carriers)

Some of the largest ships in the world carry crude oil from the major centres of production to refineries all around the globe.

Smaller tankers carry out local distribution from the refineries for products including petrol, diesel, kerosene and aviation fuel, with these constructed to provide multiple tanks enabling different cargoes to be transported together.

SSTG Member Companies that operate this type of vessel include:

  • John H. Whitaker

See all SSTG Members

Salvage, Escort Vessels and Tugs

Tugs play an important part in the operation of many of the world’s largest ships. Fleets of enormously powerful harbour tugs escort large vessels into port and assist with their manoeuvring in the close confines of harbours and restricted areas.

Larger sea-going tugs undertake many of the world’s longest tows, repositioning the world’s oil and gas rigs to destinations thousands of miles away.

Vessels serving within the world’s diverse salvage fleet are also ready to respond when ships get into difficulty, providing firefighting services, towage and other emergency services.

SSTG Member Companies that operate this type of vessel include:

  • Solent Towage

See all SSTG Members

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