Boat Vs Ship | 8 Things That Makes Boats & Ship Different

What is the difference between boat and the ship or simply “Boat vs Ship” is one of the fascinating questions of all times. A lot many people are confused to what they really mean (‘Boat’ and ‘Ship’). Both being a sea going vessel, its hard sometimes to know whether its a boat or a ship?

Traditionally people use to differentiate ships from boats based on on their size. But with time it became hard to answer just by looking at its size as their are always some exceptions. Think of large commercial fishing vessels which are still considered as boat irrespective of their large size.

One can easily laugh on you for describing a boat as ship or vice versa. But still everyone seems confused when they are asked to describe Why? So to better understand the difference; we will break it into a number of deciding factors required to be taken into consideration.

8 Differences In-Between Boat Vs Ship That Makes Them Unique

1 ) Definition

Not just they differ in the way they are conveyed or refereed to but also what they represents. Both boats and ship represents different things when used in general English. So what’s better be to differentiate boats from ships by using their basic definition given in books and understood by many.

Boat: it is defined as a vessel capable of floating on water such as river, ocean, sea, pounds and are of less than 500 tonnage. generally they carry small amount of goods and passengers from one place to another over small distance. They are commonly related to entertainment, goods and fishing.

Ship: They are defined as large complex vessels capable of sailing across the oceans and are of more than 500 tonnage. They generally work in deep waters powered by large marine engines. They are simply large, robust and strong vessels which carry large goods, perform war efforts, carry people and transport raw materials.

2 ) Size

Traditionally men differ boat from ship based on their size. Thanks to the phrases such as “You can carry boats on ship but not a ship on boats”. Small vessels are generally considered as boats while the bigger ones as ship. But technically any vessel more than 500 tonnage with sufficient crew and cargo capacity is a ship irrespective of its size.

For example the records for the worlds smallest ships goes to “Skorpios“; which is a typical cruise ship of just 1200 GRT operated by company “Cruceros Skorpios“. This ship was just 70 meters in length and 10 meters wide and looks just alike big fishing boats from a distance. If it wasn’t be its 1200 GRT weight with crew capacity of 108 it would have been called a large boat.

Boat vs Ship

3 ) Its Types

There are various types of vessels around for transportation on waters. One can be an aircraft carrier, battleship, cruiser, cruise, drekar, ocean liner, cargo, tanker; fishing, catamaran, Dingy, yacht, banana, life boats and many more depending upon their role, capacity and comfort.

You might traditionally call them as what they are, such as cruise ship and life boat. But a boat and ship can be categorized in the following main types:-

  • Hand Propelled boats
  • Sailing Boats
  • Motor Boats
  • Fishing Boats (80%)
  • Military
  • Commercial
  • Fishing (20%)
  • Inland/Ocean Recreational Passenger vessels (Cruise Ships)

4 ) Area Of Operation

Generally, boats are what that is used in restricted waters close to shore and under low sea conditions. This means they can be used in places where ship’s can’t such as in sallow waters and thinner channels. Vessels like Kayaks, Ferry, Tug, sailboats, pontoon fall in this category as they work just as the off road on road bikes; switching there operation area from large lakes, rivers to shores.

On another hand these mammoth ships operates in high seas and moves across oceans to transport goods and people. They are also used for national security and maritime security; as used by different navy around the world. These vessels include Ro-Ro, Cruise, Container, Tanker, Aircraft Carrier etc.

In military the ships are used for long range targets while the patrol boats are used to protect and scan the maritime border. Similarly in commercial shipping large ships like tankers or containers ships are used for carrying large amount of cargo across countries while boats are used to assist large ships or provide inland water transportation and supply.

5 ) Capacity

Boats are generally used for fishing and recreational purposes; and so require less cargo or machinery space than that of large ships which require large heavy machinery with large cargo capacity. A boat generally use small diesel engines are driven mostly by motor driven propellers.

On another hand ships are needed to be equipped with large space for both cargo storage and engine room. The engine room is where all the necessary machinery are located for successful operation of engine. The boats are made to carry various types of cargo in very small amount while a ship can carry large amount of same cargo or people.

A boat while have a limited capacity but large variety of cargo options to store, ships simply prefer to have large cargo storage for just one or two type of cargo. For example a tanker can only store and transport crude oil or a dry cargo can always carry and store dry minerals or raw materials like; coal, iron ore etc.

6 ) Design and Construction

There are many constructional difference in boat vs ship; A ship is a sophisticated piece of machinery which require large compartments, robust design, heavy machinery and complex construction. On the other hand boats are simple, have smaller and less machinery and have simple but robust construction.

On boats you can find quite variations from open head to closed structural ones and even with dedicated bullheads. In contrast a ship is divided in more than 3 sections with dedicated bullheads in between. While designing a ship a person has to put attention to multiple factors including its stability, draft, structural stress, machinery space, cargo space etc.

While a boat in construction is a simple construction and utilize less space, cargo space requirement and size of the engine. For boats you can use old techniques of making hull; and still came with hull of sufficient strength and quality. While for ships you have to use latest methods following all the guidelines issued from classification society, IMO and flag state.


Crew on a boat

7 ) Crew

There are more people on ship then on the boat, so are the crew; Thanks to its large size. People often believe that a vessel with large crew is a ship but with a small one is a boat. They are close to the truth but are not correct. As sometimes a mid sized fishing boat may have comparatively larger crew; while many ships operates with a crew of just 16-20 crew.

Ships have a hierarchy of crew on board with designated technical qualities such as captain, chief engineer, chief officer, trainee engineer etc. They are the professionals employed on ship with certain technical skill to perform a designated set of works. On the other hand a boat have one or two irregular / Unprofessional crew who has to look after all the aspects of the vessel.

On boats the size of crew can be from 1 to as many it can accommodate. In contrast a ship can never reduce its crew member within a certain limit. It also have to ensure high quality of life at sea with adequate care of their well being and safety; which for many boats it’s just not possible or economically viable.

8 ) Propulsion Machinery

Boats are generally hand or motor propelled and are simple in design and easy to maintain in the long time. While on ships it require dedicated machinery ( 2/4 stroke marine diesel engine ) connected with the propeller to propel the ship. These engines too are not connected directly to the propeller but rather through a series of intermediate shafts.

This makes propulsion a bit costlier for ships by ensuring proper maintenance and crew to look after them. On ships you have to do maintenance and checks on engines as per fixed schedule. While on many boats engine is only opened or checked in case of some trouble or need for up gradation.

On boats the propulsion machine can be start and run mostly independent of any other system but on ships you need a series of auxiliary machinery to prepare the engine just to start. Similarly while on boats you won’t worry more than pushing a button to start, on ships you need to follow procedures before finally turning it on.

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