Different parts of a ship

Different parts of a ship

Table of Contents

Different Parts Of Ship 

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Different parts of a ship


The stem is the most forward part of a  ship’s bow. The bow frame forms the apex of the intersection of the forward sides of a ship. At its lower end, it is rigidly connected to the keel. It may be a heavy flat bar or of rounded plate construction.


A bow is the front most part of a ship which cuts the water along its sides as the ship moves. The two main requirements for a bow are to have- minimum resistance between the water and the ship’s hull and must be high enough to avoid water splashing too easily on top of it. The main bow types are a normal bow, bulbous bow, Inverted bow, and an Axe bow.

A normal bow has evolved from what was previously a vertical bow. (Rake may be defined as the angle the ship’s stem makes with the waterline). This bow has the maximum waterline length of all.

A vertical, or unraked bow having a straight edge is known as a plumb bow. 

A bulbous bow is the one that is found in most ships. It can be easily identified by its obvious bulb-like shape just under the waterline.

Having a bulbous bow increases ship speed and reduces fuel consumption, acts as a fender in case of collision, it helps in reducing the bow wave, thereby making the ship more energy efficient in comparison to other ships by around 15%.

The ship with an inverted bow (reverse bow) design has its part of hull and bow upside down. It somewhat resembles a submarine’s bow. This improves its water drag but restricts its reserve buoyancy and speed in bad weather.

The Axe bow type is designed for ships involved in anchor handling, laying deep-sea pipes, and offshore. The axe bow is a wave-piercing type of a ship’s bow, characterized by a vertical stem and a relatively long and narrow front hull.

The forefoot is deep and the freeboard relatively high, with a little flare, so that the bow profile resembles an axe. It helps in improving the speed of the ship for the same power.

The bows on ships assist in easy propulsion.


 The forecastle or foc’sle , is a raised deck at the bow of a ship. All sea-going ships must be fitted with a forecastle that extends a minimum of 7% of the ship’s length aft of the stem, and a minimum height of the bow at the forecastle deck above the summer load line is stipulated in the construction rule.

The forecastle deck houses anchoring and mooring gears used for securing vessels at berth or at anchorage or during canal transit. The foremast is normally at the foc’sle and it has the navigational light in some ships, a radar scanner is installed on it. On military naval ships, it additionally houses strategic defensive guns.


It is the bulkhead joining the upper deck and forecastle deck.


An anchor is a device made up of heavy metal with two flukes attached to the chain cables and is used to hold the ship fast to the seabed when required, during favorable sea conditions. It is housed in the hawse pipe. (A hawsepipe is a pipe passing through the bow section of a ship that the anchor chain passes through). 

The anchor gear consists of an anchor, chain cables, connecting devices, windlass, and bow stopper. The main parts of the anchors are the ring, shank, crown, stock, and fluke. Anchors are mainly used when ships arrive at a port & have to wait for the berth, mainly due to port congestion. 

Sometimes a vessel uses one or two anchors at a designated anchorage, in order to carry out loading and unloading operations.


A lateral impeller is fitted in an athwartships tunnel near the bow to improve the maneuverability of a ship in congested waters at a very slow speed like that in canals or during berthing and unberthing operation in a port. 

When the bow thruster is used while the vessel is moving forward the thrust is partially counteracted by a vacuum created in the wake of the water jet emerging from the thrusters. The impeller can rotate in both directions; clockwise and anticlockwise generating bidirectional thrust capabilities.

A ship with a bow thruster reduces the cost of the tugs, which are normally used during the berthing and unberthing operation of a ship. Markings are drawn on both sides of the bow above the waterline.  These thrusters are mostly electrically powered but in some cases can also be powered hydraulically.


A deck is a floor or covering to the ship’s hull structure, providing a different ceiling floor to the ship. A ship can have different decks at different parts of the ship. Mainly a ship’s deck can be categorized as a Forecastle deck, main deck, lower deck, or poop deck.

The partial deck above the main deck at the bow of a ship over a forecastle is called the forecastle deck. The uppermost continuous deck exposed to the weather is called the main deck or weather deck.

The deck below the upper deck is called the lower deck. The upper-most rear deck is called the poop deck. The deck at the stern area is called the aft deck. It houses mooring gears used for securing vessels at berth or anchorage or during canal transit.


Accommodation is the space in the superstructure which are used for crew quarters, public spaces, corridors, lavatories, cabins(including Master’s cabin), offices, hospitals, galley, salon, storerooms, recreation room, gymnasium and hobby rooms, barbershops, pantries containing no cooking appliances and similar spaces.

A salon onboard is the dining space &  galley is just a nautical term for the kitchen; where food is cooked.

Under MLC 2006-2007(Maritime Labor Convention ), it is required by law to provide adequate accommodation facilities to the ship’s crew and officers along with proper recreational facilities taking into consideration the proper provision for the safety, and health of the crew onboard ship, hospital accommodation, proper ventilation, lighting, heating, and headspace with the adequate size of crew cabins.


A hull is the outer watertight shell of a vessel that extends below the waterline to cover and protect water from getting inside. The hull may be open at the top or it may be fully or partially covered with a deck.

The hull of a ship can vary greatly depending upon the size or the type of the ship or vessel. Everything that is situated within the ship’s main structure is covered and protected by the ship’s hull. 

The hull is made up of a series of plates joined together & fixed to other structural members such as frames(both transverse & longitudinal), girders, keel plating, beams, bulkheads, and stiffeners. Any structure like the deck of a ship, accommodation, the mast, etc. lies above or atop the hull of a ship.

While designing a ship’s hull various mathematical calculations are taken into account so that it offers minimum hull resistance in water & is stable in worst sea conditions. At the same time, it offers maximum cargo space, without adding extra weight to light displacement tonnage.

Ships’ hulls are coated with special paints(anti-fouling & boot top) that reduce marine growth thereby increasing fuel efficiency and speed. 


The freeboard means the distance of the ship’s hull above the waterline to the upper deck line. The freeboard of a ship changes as per the ship’s displacement. 

In full load condition, the freeboard will be minimum & in lightship condition (without cargo) the freeboard will be maximum. 

For safety and stability reasons, as per international convention on load line, it is required by law to maintain a minimum freeboard at all times. Vessels have load line and deck line markings at the amidships area on either side of the outer hull area.


Gunwale is defined as the uppermost edge of a ship’s side.


A bulwark is a solid wall-like structure fitted on the ship’s side above the upper deck to protect crew members from falling overboard. Some ships instead have a ship-side railing to reduce the lightship displacement.


A funnel is the smokestack or chimney on a ship used to expel boiler steam and smoke or engine exhaust to the atmosphere in order not to foul the ship’s structure or decks, and to avoid impairing the ability of the crew to carry out their duties on decks. The size and area of the funnel largely depend on the amount of exhaust & other gases the engine room produces.

Funnels are not straight but placed but inclined to an angle aft. This is done to facilitate the flow of exhaust & other gases away from the navigation bridge and ship’s deck. Each shipping company marks the funnel with its own unique colors and designs.


The engine room is the compartment where the important machinery like the main engine, auxiliary engine, propeller shaft, boiler, fresh water generator, air compressor, calorifier, purifier, oily water separator, incinerator, pumps, heat exchangers, workshop, etc. are situated.

It is also called the heart of the ship. All the above machines are well segregated for easy usage and maintenance purposes. All the machinery in the engine can be controlled from a  room called the Engine Control Room. (ECR) which has air conditioning, hence it is the coolest place in the engine room.

The average temperature outside the ECR is mostly between 40-45 centigrade, depending on the area of trade.


The navigation bridge is a place from where navigation of the ship is carried out. It is one of the most important parts of the ship, also known as the brain of the ship.

It is the control center of the ship, situated on top of the accommodation area. It allows a better & unrestricted view for safe maneuvering of the ship. 

The ship’s bridge houses various navigational equipment: Radar, ECDIS, Gyro compass,  Magnetic compass, autopilot for steering, echo sounder, rudder angle indicator, G.P.S, ships horn, navigation lights, weather facsimile, smoke detectors panel, fire alarm panel, signaling flags, GMDSS equipment & other equipment for communication, etc.


Deck cranes are installed on a deck in order to facilitate loading and unloading operations onboard the ship. Not all ships have deck cranes. These cranes are either electrically or hydraulically or electro-hydraulically operated. It is a very conspicuous part of the ship. The safe working load of the deck cranes varies from ship to ship.


In modern ships, a mast is a steel vertical structure mounted on top of a bridge(monkey island) called the mainmast and forward of the forecastle area called the foremast. 

It houses equipment such as radar scanners, navigation lights, and ship’s horns. It has arrangements to hoist ships’ flags.


It is an enclosed structure on or above the weather deck that does not extend from side to side of the ship.

Deckhouses/masthouses serve as a base for heavy derricks, and cranes. Ventilators are often arranged to pass through the deckhouses/masthouses. It is also used as a storehouse for lubricating oil and grease for the cranes and their equipment  & also used for other stores.


A propeller is a rotating fan-like structure fitted on a shaft that is used to propel the ship by using the power generated and transmitted by the main engine of the ship. Most ships are fitted with one propeller, some have 2 and in very rare cases 3 propellers.

The rotational motion of the propeller blades is converted into thrust by creating a pressure difference between the two surfaces. The ship moves forward as the propeller of the ship pushes the water backward creating a net resultant force of equal magnitude.

A propeller is made of non-corrosive alloys of aluminum and stainless steel or alloys of nickel, aluminum, and bronze which are 10~15 % lighter than other materials and have higher strength.

A propeller can be either a fixed-pitch propeller or a controllable pitch propeller. A propeller may have three, four, five, or six-blade types.


A flat hollow structure device pivoting on a vertical axis used for steering and maneuvering a vessel It is located normally at the stern behind the propeller to produce a transverse force and steering moment about the ship’s Centre of gravity by deflecting the water flow. A rudder can be balanced, semi-balanced, and of unbalanced type. 

A balanced rudder is one that has about 30-40% area forward of the turning axis. Similarly, a semi-balanced one with less than 20% area is forward of the turning axis.; while the unbalanced rudder type is the one with all areas aft of the turning axis.

A rudder must be capable of moving from a 35-degree port to a 35-degree starboard & should have the ability of steering gear to move from 35 degrees on one side to 30 degrees on another in not more than 28 seconds.


The keel is the bottommost main fore-and-aft component of ship framing, located along the centerline and connected to the stem and stern frames & other hull plating. Bottom transverses are attached to the keel. As the keel holds and supports the ship structure it is often termed the backbone of the ship, it provides stability to a ship and increases its effective speed. There are three main types of keels.

Bar keel: It is the first type of keel used since the iron ship was built. flat keel. It is mostly used in tugs, ferries, and boats where they are more exposed to grounding risks. A bar made of steel is placed in the center of the keel called a bar keel.

Flat keel: This type of keel is used by all modern sea-going vessels. Flat plate keels can be used for single bottom hull and double bottom hull ships.

Duct keel: It is used in double bottom hull ships & consists of solid plates joined together to form a box shape that allows pipes, and valves to pass throughout the length of the keel. It runs from the engine room forward bulkhead to the collision bulkhead.

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