Saturday, 3 July 2010

Q: What is the Difference Between a Boat, a Ship and a Vessel?

Vessel is a catch-all term, like 'watercraft', which describes any floating object used for the carriage of people or goods. Generally smaller and less complex vessels are 'boats', whilst larger and more complex vessels are 'ships'. As a general rule, you can put a boat on a ship, but you can't put a ship on a boat. 

Specifically, boats are small to medium-sized vessels with hulls,* powered by sails, engines, or human force. Some types of vessel are always categorised as boats, regardless of their size or complexity.** Their 'boat' status was designated when these types of vessel were small and has stuck despite their future growth.

A ship is a larger vessel, built to transport either passengers or cargo. These types of vessel started off large and accordingly we talk of a cruiseships, containerships and a battleships.

* a raft, for instance, has no hull; it would therefore be incorrect to call it a boat - hence 'life raft'.
**  submarines, fishing boats, tugs and barges for example.

(Image Credit: John Keogh)


Anonymous 2 August 2013 at 08:11  

Boat in a ship, ship in a boat.... So because I carry a small boat on my 23 and 24 foot boats they are ships. But since their primary purpose is pleasure and not commerce, they are yachts. Sweet! I have two yachts, 23 and 24 footers, or one 47 footer with some careful use of duct tape.

Paul 2 March 2014 at 01:19  

or a 24' catamaran...

Tim Trent 3 January 2015 at 15:45  

A Royal Navy officer stated that the distinction is that a boat leans inwards on a turn and a ship leans outwards. He was convinced that this was the definition, and convinced those to whom he spoke

Anonymous 15 February 2016 at 00:58  


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