In the US, today’s auto traffic is handled by ro-ro, including both imports and exports. Heavier ro-ro cargo includes large rolling stock such as farm and construction implements driven or towed on or off the vessel rather than lifted. Many of the larger pieces are broken down and loaded on specially designed Roll Trailers, while loose or large and heavy cargo, paper rolls and bales as example, are loaded onto trailers and towed to or from the vessels by specially designed yard tractors. Many ro-ro commodities are handled by lift trucks designed to work in the low, tight confines of the ro-ro decks.

The cargo handling industry has always been adept at designing material handling tools to suit its needs and the ro-ro trade has not been an exception. Ro-ro encompasses such a wide variety of cargo that terminal operators and stevedores often require access to different tools. In many cases, the similarities between the equipment used to handle containers and ro-ro often allow a cross-over, however, many aspects of ro-ro demand specialized applications. For ro-ro cargo, the equipment utilized ranges from cargo securing gear to heavy duty, multi-wheeled trailers and specially designed lift trucks and shuttle tractors.

The interior of many ro-ro vessels are configured much like a high rise parking lot with multiple decks with low ceilings, narrow interior ramps and tight turns. To meet these challenges, the evolution of the tools used to work the vessels is a continuing process. As newer vessels are launched or cargo configurations changed, ro-ro cargo handling techniques rise to meet the challenges. In this respect, the industry has responded, offering multiple equipment choices in almost every category.

Lashing Gear:

As the last thing to be completed before sailing and the first thing to be done after docking, the securing of any cargo type cannot be overlooked. Stevedore gear lockers were once the creative forces behind fashioning lashing gear, however, there are now a number of corporations offering the ro-ro industry a variety of chains, straps, deck fittings and other securing equipment. Today there are five major companies actively handling this type of gear including Martec International, Cordstrap, Peck & Hale, Jost, and Buffers USA.

With headquarters in New Jersey, Martec International operates four locations in the United States with over 100,000 square feet of inventory. Martec distribution centers and warehouses are located in Elizabeth, New Jersey; Hialeah, Florida; Houston, Texas and Los Angeles, California. Martec’s inventory includes chain and binder assemblies, ratchet straps, deck fittings, heavy securing rods and twist locks. Martec also has the ability to manufacture specialty items.

Ro-ro Tractors:

Terberg is a family owned business that began in 1869. Today the Dutch company is in the hands of the family’s fourth generation. Terberg Tractor Americas is located in Miami, Florida.

Terberg’s offers four models of ro-ro tractors including the RT223, 283, 323, and 403. All of these featuring robust design and exceptionally powerful 4x4 drives. These trucks also feature spacious cabs with Terberg’s Ergoturn driver’s seat. This allows the operator to swivel 180 degrees for improved visibility in difficult areas inside ro-ro vessels and on the steep ramps. Terberg’s tractors offer capacities ranging from 150 tons GCW to 190 tons. Fifth wheel lift specifications offer from 36 to 45 tons lift at from 962mm to 1335mm height.

Terberg’s Safeneck attachment is a feature that replaces standard goosenecks, providing increased safety and capacity for handling heavy loads on vessel ramps. Safeneck lifts the trailer off of the ground utilizing its hydraulic cylinder rather than using the tractor’s 5th wheel. Safeneck transfers a greater portion of the load to the tractor’s front axle improving stability and safety as well as increased capacity.


Kalmar has produced over 4,500 ro-ro tractors and a total of 60,000 yard tractors.

The original version of their ro-ro truck was introduced in 1960 by Finnish equipment manufacturer SISU. Kalmar purchased Sisu in the late 1990’s. Today, Kalmar offers ro-ro tractors with high tractive power allowing their trucks to easily climb steep, slippery ramps with the heaviest of loads. The machine’s turning radius is the tightest in the industry at just over 20’. All around visibility allows the driver access to his outside environment. The Kalmar TR618i is a heavy model, however, the TR6261/6321i are their heaviest, with 50 ton lift and 320 tons gross combination weight capable of multi-trailer trains and heavy roll trailers.

Ro-Ro Forklift Trucks:

Wiggins Lift Company has produced a ro-ro lift truck model for over 15 years. The company recently unveiled its new, dual purpose ro-ro/lift truck. Michael Marzahl, President of Wiggins dealer XLLift, indicates that, “This is a first in the industry,” offering the capability to handle almost every category of cargo.

What makes this new product special is the design of the lift truck. It offers ro-ro forklift features but can also accomplish the mission of a standard lift truck as well. The first model manufactured was delivered to Ports America at their Port Hueneme operation. Based upon very exacting specifications, this lift truck’s mast has an overall lowered height of 9’2” critical to ro-ro operations with a 12 ft maximum lift, important to general cargo handling. It is the first lift truck with the capability to operate in the tight confines of a ro-ro vessel and make a lift of up to 12’ in the field. The machine has a Tier 4, Volvo870VE 8 liter 6 cylinder engine. The Ports America specification did not call for a turnaround operator’s seat, but one has been designed and can be installed.

Taylor Machine Works

Taylor is in the process of completing the first of a new ro-ro/lift truck design that will be capable of lifting 70,000 lbs.

Taylor’s most popular ro-ro/lift truck, Model T550RR has an overall height of 112” to the top of the cab and an overall width of 134 in. This truck is well suited to operate in the tight confines of ro-ro vessels. The cab is off set and features dual operating controls and a 180 degree rotating seat. With a wheel base of 160 inches and a load center of 48 inches, the truck can lift 25 tons up to 9’ high and 23 tons up to 12’ high. Taylor reports that they are in the process of manufacturing a heavy ro-ro/lift truck that will handle 70,000 lb lifts.


Kalmar has manufactured ro-ro/lift trucks for 40 years. It could be said that the company pioneered the ro-ro cargo handling lift truck, with the then emerging roll-on roll-off industry in Scandinavia and Europe. Their latest ro-ro/lift truck versions, the DCE 280 RoRo and the DCE 330 RoRo offer 25 and 33 ton lift capacities respectively. The truck features a turn-around driver’s seat for 360 degree visibility. Kalmar’s ro-ro/lift truck design offers compact external measurements and a freelift mast slightly less than 10 feet high. The truck is capable of lifting loads just over 9’ high. Kalmar’s ro-ro standards provide a low center of gravity and exceptional maneuverability and stability.

Roll Trailers & Goose Necks:

Martec Leasing pioneered roll trailer concepts in the North American market by offering equipment inventory in major ro-ro ports with a variety of lease and purchase options available. Martec partnered with Danish manufacturer Novatech to introduce roll-trailer products that included a variety of sizes and capacities with options of fixed or detachable goose necks.

TAL International Container Corporation purchased the roll trailer division of Martec Leasing and acquired the Martec inventory of ro-ro trailer products. Ania Mierzejewska, who moved to TAL from Martec, continues to manage and sell the inventory in the USA.

Ro-ro carriers and terminal operators utilize roll trailers to move oversized and heavy cargo to and from the vessels as well as stowage onboard for ready discharge. The most popular sizes include 100 ton and 60 ton trailers. In addition to the detachable goose necks, a number of TAL roll trailers have permanent goosenecks attached. Empty roll trailers can be stacker for return service or storage.

New to the inventory is TAL’s railcar roll trailer. This 100 ton trailer has rails added for easy loading and discharge of the railcar cargo. The trailer has two sets of two rails each to handle most rail cars destined for the U.S.

Worldwide, there are approximately seven different gauges for railcars, however, 60% are at a gauge of 1,435 mm. The new trailers will eventually be stocked at specific locations around the world, however, presently they are housed in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Many North American ports have embraced roll-on/roll-off cargo as a means to develop their facilities and improve their region’s economic impact without the investment in the structures necessary to handle containerized cargo. Although many of the major ports have invested in both container handling and ro-ro, the number of successful ports handling only cargoes classified as ro-ro, far outnumber them. The requirements center upon the availability of land and inland access. The equipment required to work ro-ro vessels can be as little as personnel carriers for longshoremen handling import/export vehicles, or as great as a full complement of the specialty forklifts, roll trailers and ro-ro tractors described above.