The introduction of the roll-on/roll-off system to major trade routes of the world has added new dimensions to the modern cargo handling techniques offered to shippers. The roll-on/roll-off system was first introduced about the same time as the containership and has only recently gained wide acceptance. While there has been a rapid buildup of terminal areas, berths, and handling equipment for containerization at many ports, the roll-on/roll-off system has proved that it complements and supplements rather than competes with the containership and container handling methods.
More important for developing trade, it is a system that does not require massive specialized terminal facilities and shore-based equipment. Many operators conclude that the го/го method combines the best features of containerization, unitization, and breakbulk techniques. However, these ships also have unsatisfactory features such as wasted space and lashing problems. Recent ro/ro ships have been designed as almost full containerships where the containers are loaded and unloaded ro/ro fashion with forklift trucks.
Examples of cargo that have been literally rolled aboard ro/ro ships are heavy earth-moving machinery, automobiles farm equipment, large pieces of lumber, wood pulp, newsprint, sheet steel, piping, and other similar commodities. Rolling stock is ready for delivery upon arrival at the discharge port, and loading, stowing, and discharge operations are simplified.