Identifying Parts of Ships

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While the average bus rider knows the common parts of a car, many people travel by boat each year without understanding fundamental parts of vessels and their functions. While this information in no way affects the passenger’s ability to enjoy their travels, it is good to have a basic grasp of what the different vessel parts are and what they do.


While parts of cargo vessels are likely to differ from parts of vessels designated for passenger use, the main components of the vessel will be the same. Cruise vessel parts and equipment will not be dramatically different from cargo vessel parts and equipment, because each piece is integral to the function of a boat.

Arguably, the most important parts of vessels are the engines, propeller, and rudder, which allow the boat to move and be steered. The rudder connects to the wheel so that the crew can control which direction the boat is moving, much like the connection between a car’s axles and steering wheel. The engines also function as the boat’s brakes. Instead of having a separate mechanism to stop the boat, the sailor simply slows or cuts the engines’ power to bring the boat to a safe stop. An anchor is then used to keep the boat from drifting away.

In addition to mechanics, each vessel should be fitted with more than enough life boats for all crew and passengers in case of emergency. Crew members will also have their own living quarters, and cargo vessels will be fitted with storage hulls for the merchandise they are transporting. The galley, navigation deck, and superstructure complete the parts that are utilized by the crew in their daily activities. The superstructure is built above the highest deck of the ship, and houses the main work station and, on aircraft carriers, serves as the planes’ control tower.

While most people will remain passengers on ships for much of their lives, a few will go on to work and live as part of a crew. No matter what your nautical future holds, it is good to be as informed as possible.

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