General Cargo Ship

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Defining a general cargo ship
The term “general (multipurpose) cargo ships” covers many different ship designs that do not fi t into other more specialised cargo ship types. Thus, general cargo ships are not specialised for transport of only dry bulks, only containers or only heavy-lift cargoes, but they have flexibility to carry any of these cargo types. General cargo ships are the world’s most numerous ship types, excepting fishing vessels. Thus, in the year 2002 their share in the overall world merchant fleet amounted to about 37% in numbers and to about 11% in dwt.
The average deadweight of the world fleet of general cargo ships is about 5600 dwt. Larger vessels, up to about 30000 dwt are intended to carry break-bulk cargo (bagged, boxed and palletised cargo) or containers, while small general cargo ships, usually below 5000 dwt are mostly found as flexible solutions for many dry-cargo types in shortsea shipping.
The concern for structural safety of general cargo ships follows from the fact that during the period from 1995 to 2000 approximately 90 losses of these ships per year occurred, which in other words means one ship every 4 days, with 170 fatalities per year. Even 42% of losses of all merchant ships belong to general cargo ships and similar percentage is valid also for fatality experience. Despite these figures, general cargo ships are not considered in publicity as risky ships, probably because general cargo ship accidents are not as spectacular as for example accidents of oil tankers Erika or Prestige .
There are several reasons for poor statistical records of general cargo ships. Ship ages, inappropriate maintenance, poor quality in operation of these ships and defi ciencies in design are some of the main causes of a large number of accidents. Smaller general cargo ships are particularly vulnerable to collision and grounding accidents because of their frequent operation in inland waterways and coastal waters.
The general cargo ship consists of

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