Comprehensive Guide to Parts of a Ship

Parts of a ship

The ship is one of the greatest marvels of engineering, sitting on the water with much splendor to captivate the eye. People continue to marvel at how engineers keep the ship afloat.

As such, this article will explore the different parts of a ship. Ships have helped man travel the globe, bringing development and civilization with them.

Cargos move safely to their destinations using sea vessels. Ships indeed transport more cargo than airlines or aircraft in the world.

Marine technology continues to offer innovative technologies to keep these mammoth vessels afloat even in massive storms.

Most parts of a ship above water can be seen, but they are other parts that go below the water surface, like the propeller. A dive below will reveal relatively small but powerful propellers and rudders that propel and steer the ship.

Modern ships have electronic systems that quickly send the captain’s commands on the bridge to the engine room below. In essence, the helmsman can exert control over the ship with a touch of a button.

If you are ready, join me as we explore the different parts, from the mast to the rudder below the water.  

Exterior parts of a ship above water

Monkey Island

The monkey island looks like a deck located at the highest accessible point of the ship, and it stands above the ship’s bridge and sometimes goes by the name of the flying bridge. Also, sailors used this part to carry out stellar and solar observations for efficient navigation.

This part of the ship provides accommodation for the magnetic compass and other driving units. Here, you can find several operating units, such as the VDR capsule, AIS Tx/Rx antennae, and Radar scanner(s) attached to the radar mast.

Furthermore, equipment like Sat C/F77 Tx/Rx antennae, weather vane, ship’s aft whistle, and communication equipment gear occupy this part of the ship. Others are here, including the halyards connected to the yardarm to hoist flags and the masts leading up to the Christmas tree.

The Christmas tree houses the navigation lights of the vessel.


This crucial part of the ship houses the commanding station, which controls the ship’s movement. Sailors use the navigational equipment aboard this part to control the boat.

The equipment under its control includes the deck machinery, the ship’s navigation system, and the main engine.

Marine engineers and seafarers regard the bridge as a vital part of a ship because of its functions. You cannot miss this section among parts of a ship.

The captain and the navigational crew control the speed and direction of the sheep, monitor the sea conditions, navigate and fix the ship’s position, and carry out internal/external communication.

As remote technology evolves, there is a progressive transfer of the main ship’s controls to the bridge. Sailors can operate the wheel and throttles from the bridge, bringing often-unmanned spaces under their control.

Nevertheless, modern warships have a slightly different structure in terms of ship controls. The bridge provides the navigational command while another interior compartment controls the weapon systems.

The commercial vessel can not navigate without the bridge because it contains navigational equipment. Hence, the bridge plays a vital role among the parts of a ship during motion.

The most common equipment in a ship’s bridge includes a GPS device, a Navtex receiver, one or more radars, an ECDIS system, and a communications system.

Also, engine controls, wheel/autopilot system, light/sound signaling devices, and a magnetic compass sit in this part.

There are two types of bridges, namely:

The ship’s bridge may also go by the name navigation station if it houses the navigational equipment. This part houses a table-sized board where sailors make calculations on course and location with the nautical charts.

The navigator is responsible for plotting the ship’s course on the nautical charts. Also, the navigation station contains several navigational instruments, including electronic equipment for the GPS and chart display.

Other types of equipment in the navigation station are a fathometer, compass, marine chronometer, radiotelephone, and two-way radios.

Flying Bridge

The flying bridge provides clear views of the aft, fore, and sides of the ship. Also, it can serve as the operating station for the ship’s officers like the captain or officer of the watch because of its elevated position.

Before world war II, sailing ships, steamships, monitors, and paddle steamers, placed the flying bridge above the main bridge. This part often came open or partially enclosed and had limited equipment.

Marine engineers placed enough equipment on this part to allow communication between the captain and the helmsman or wheelman in the main bridge. Afterward, the air defense officer and the gunnery officer used the flying bridge as air defense command posts in 1914.

The captain decides how much equipment he needs on the flying bridge. For instance, an American submarine chaser surface ship had a well-fitted flying bridge, which contained signal lamps, a pelorus, a telescope, and a voice tube. Captains used the voice tube to issue commands on the ship.

Sometimes, the flying bridge comes equipped with either 20mm or 40mm automatic weapons, especially in the United States Navy transport ships.

Below the flying bridge is the flag bridge, which goes by the admiral’s bridge. It sat above the main bridge and provided provisional command to the high-ranking officer aboard a command warship. Here, the admiral could plan fleet operations and strategize.

The list of parts of a bridge will be incomplete without this section. Giant pleasure crafts can situate their flying bridges toward the stern to create an additional outdoor seating space and storage for the tender.

Smaller vessels like fishing boats can install controls on the flying bridge to permit pilot operations from this section. However, it will lack the full controls in the primary pilothouse or main bridge.


You have wondered how the exhaust smoke from the engine is released from the ship. Probably, you have seen two or more long chimneys when looking at parts of a ship. In marine terms, these chimneys go by the name funnels.

The funnel keeps the deck clean by removing the exhaust gases from the engine room into the atmosphere. Innovations in engine technology have allowed engineers to reduce the number of toxic emissions into the atmosphere.


Parts of a ship will be incomplete without accommodation to house the crew. This crucial part contains all the amenities, including the gym, crew cabins, offices, hospital, recreation room, standard rooms, laundry, salon, and the galley.

In addition, it houses the garbage disposal system, which is essential for healthy living aboard the ship. The freshwater system, sewage treatment plant, air conditioning system, and refrigeration system sit in this accommodation block.

Relaxation, medical treatment, and dining services take place in the accommodation block of the ship.

Funnel Deck

As time went by, the smoke from the funnel created a problem for the deck and navigation bridge. Older models stood upright without any control over the direction of the smoke. Today, engineers have taken extra steps to appropriately discharge the smoke from the funnel.

This development led to creating a funnel deck where the funnels have a particular inclination towards the aft.

Boat Deck

The boat deck is the floor that runs through the ship’s hull structure. Crew can access different parts of a ship through multiple decks or deck sections of the boat.

The main deck or weather deck sits at the very top, which has maximum exposure to the elements.

Crew members classify decks into six main types based on the position on the ship. These are the main deck, poop deck, lower deck, upper deck, foredeck, and weather deck. Also, the deck performs the crucial function of holding the hull structure.

The boat deck provides the flooring needed to work, stand and guard the ship against outside threats.


This part sits at the top of any ship. It has the highest elevation among other parts of a boat responsible for carrying derricks and holding the navigation lights, salient yards, scanners, and radio or radar aerials.

That component that keeps rotating on the ship’s mast is likely the radar system. However, this rangy spar setup is crucial to the ship’s navigation.


The front-most part of the ship or bow has the designation as the vessel’s stem, and it extends its keel to the gunwale, forming the curved edge of the vessel. In addition, the stem can come in two styles, viz; raked and plumb.

The raked stem is inclined to the waterline, while the plumb stem stays perpendicular to the waterline.


This foremost section of the ship takes less than seven percent of the total length of the deck. Soldiers used this part in military vessels to take up defensive positions during an attack.

Notwithstanding, the forecastle serves several functions today, like anchoring, holding, and securing significant parts.


The foredeck sits between the superstructure and the foc’sle superstructure as the forward part of the weather deck. Primarily, it is the part of the ship in front of the mast.

Bulbous Bow

The bulbous bow is a crucial component among the parts of a ship in the water. It looks like a jut-out bulb, sitting at the vessel’s bow below the W/L. Consequently, it performs the essential function of cutting the water and tweaking the flow around the hull.

The bulbous bow increases the ship’s speed, fuel efficiency, and stability by doing this function. Vessels with a bulbous bow have 12 – 15% higher fuel efficiency. Furthermore, the buoyancy increases towards the onward part of the vessel, reducing the pitching to an extent.


The stern is an aft-end structure with low resistance, high propulsion efficiency, and slight vibrations. It sits at the rearmost part of the ship keeping the water out.

Also, it can have a flat, canoe-like, sharp, or tapered shape to cut the water as the ship sails. Rudders and propellers attach themselves to the stern of the ship.

Poop Deck

In one way, this part provides coverage to the cabin made aft of the ship. The captain and the helmsman can easily supervise the entire working crew from this deck. Nevertheless, modern ships have their poop decks in the center or on the starboard.

Parts of a ship below water

Side Thrusters

The side thrusters look like a propeller and perform a similar function of maneuvering the ship. They sit precisely on either side of the vessel to allow low-speed maneuvering in congested waters, especially near seaports.

Sometimes, they bear the name tunnel thrusters. Consequently, the choice of powering the side thrusters influences the total running cost of the ship crucially. The thrusters can get their power from hydraulics or electronics.


The rudder is an essential component in the ship’s steering system. Without steering, you cannot move the vessel in the desired direction. Please note that the propeller only moves the vessel, but the rudder does the steering.

The rudder is a flat hollow structure that houses itself aft of the propeller. It has several parts like a rudder trunk, moveable flap, main rudder blade, links, rudder carrier bearing, and hinge system.

Furthermore, you can have three types of rudders, namely: the unbalanced type, the semi-balanced type, and the balanced type.

As an essential part of the ship, the rudder has a steering gear system that controls its movements. However, this component uses Newton’s third law of motion.


This mechanical device has blades fitted to a central shaft that rotates. The rotational energy transforms to pressure to produce the thrust needed for propulsion. In addition, it pushes the seawater backward, providing the ship with a forward thrust.

The propulsion unit consists of the engine, propeller, and shaft. Aluminum, bronze, and manganese are the elements that make up the propeller, and as a result, they form an excellent resistance to corrosion for underwater propellers.

A ship may go with two to three propellers depending on its design. Nevertheless, it cannot move if it has no propeller. The ship’s propellers use Newton’s third law of motion and Bernoulli’s theorem to produce the forward thrust for the boat.

Other parts of the ship will become stationary if the propellers stop working. Hence, it is crucial to fit the right size of the propeller to the vessel and ensure it operates smoothly.

Interior Parts of a Ship

Paint Room

Crew workers store and handle the paint in this part of the ship. It is crucial to have a storage area on board the marine vessel where paints are kept.

However, there are special provisions to prevent the release of toxic gases and vapors from these enamels in an explosion.

The paint room has explosion-proof lighting with brackets to allow flexible mounting and storage of the paints.

Emergency Generator Room

Have you ever wondered what will happen if the main generator on the ship goes out? This incident occurs on rare occasions, but there is an emergency generator to cater for this unfortunate incident when it does.

Those seeking the emergency generator room should check above the topmost deck, away from the primary and secondary machinery. It has its switchboard away from the collision head. Notwithstanding, the emergency generator has simple controls for easy operation.

Ballast Tanks

Ships have stabilizing equipment that keeps them steady even in heavy storms and waves. The ballast tanks carry water that stabilizes the vessel when the need arises. However, care must be taken to protect these tanks from corrosion as seawater is highly destructive.

In times past, the marine industry used solid ballast to stabilize the vessels, which posed considerable problems in loading and offloading. Today, liquid ballast offers a revolutionary approach to stabilizing sea vessels.

Bunker Tanks

Ships keep their fuel and lubricants in the bunker tanks. Crew workers use lube oils to maintain safe operations of the machinery by preventing wear and tear. However, the fuel in the bunker tanks can function during emergencies or regular operations.

Shipbuilders place the bunker tanks far away from ignition-prone areas due to their highly volatile nature.

Duct Keel

The duct keel is a hollow structure with two longitudinal girders and solid plates welded together to form a box-type structure. Double-hull ships usually have this configuration in their designs.

As a result of the welding, the duct keel provides a watertight passage throughout the ship length. Also, it has a sounding pipe that helps to detect leaks.

Nevertheless, the duct keel provides load resistance and carries water pipelines, ballast pipelines, oil pipelines, etc. Hence, it is one part of a ship that has a multi-functional build.

Parts of a ship for cargo handling

Ship Cargo gear (Cranes/Derrick)

Crew workers use cranes to lift and carry the working load aboard the ship. They have electrical or hydraulic controls for easy operations.

Cargo-handling gear

This equipment assists in loading, unloading, and arranging the freight aboard the ship. Vessels usually come equipped with periodic-motion type cargo handling gear like load booms, cranes, and elevators.

The most common among these loading equipment is the loading boom which handles cargo in a freighter. It has a simple form of operation, necessitating its use on sea vessels. Nevertheless, modern ships have electrical or hydraulic cranes for their loading needs.

Loading cranes on ships typically can handle five to eight tons of weight. However, some can carry fifteen tons and more loads, with the most extensive handling thirty tons. Container ships, lumber and package carriers, and bulk vessels have the highest-rated cranes.

In some cases, elevators with capacities for one to five tons play a crucial role in maneuvering the load in passengers, fishing, and other boats.

Conveyor belts, bucket elevators, and pneumatic cargo movers handle the load in situations requiring continuous cargo. Essentially, self-discharging ships such as ore, cement, and coal carriers use these types of handling gear.  

Conveyor belts can attain a capacity of 4,000 tons per hour.

Samson Post

This part is otherwise known as the king post. It poses as a vertical post that supports the cargo cranes and booms. Also, it sits on the keelson while supporting the deck beam of the ship.

Cargo hold

This section is an enclosed space that retains and stores the cargo or freight containers carrying goods like coal, salt, and grain. It has its place under the ship’s deck with a capacity to hole between twenty to two hundred thousand tons of cargo.

The primary function of the cargo hold is to ensure the complete preservation of the cargo during transportation.

Generally, you can locate the cargo spaces between the engine room forward bulkhead and the forward peak bulkhead. Otherwise, you can find it aft of the engine room if it moves forward.

Transverse watertight bulkheads divide the overall cargo space, especially in merchant ships. As a result, this division creates several cargoes holds in the vessel. However, oil tankers have a different configuration where longitudinal bulkheads divide the cargo spaces.

The division creates transverse watertight compartments that limit the free surface effects (in the case of a partially loaded tank) and prevent the oil from spilling in an accident.

Hatch Cover

Hatch cover plays a vital role among the cargo parts of a ship, and it prevents damage to cargo storage. In addition, it provides an airtight and watertight condition to the cargo spaces, thereby saving the food items transported on the ship during rainstorms.

The type of sea vessel influences the hatch cover design, but it needs to have quick opening and closing for faster cargo handling operations. Older vessels used hatch covers that were crane or hatch-driven. Nonetheless, newer ships use hydraulically driven covers.


The freeboard is the distance between the waterline and the higher edge of the freeboard plating/deck plating at the ship’s sides. Classification societies hold the approval for the minimum freeboard calculation of any vessel.

Freeboards play a crucial role in determining the load line marks of the sea vessel, which relates directly to the cargo capacity of the ship. Hence, it is a necessary calculation that needs to be done.


All ships must have a watertight body that may be partially covered with a deck or left open. The hull contains several waterproof decks and bulkheads, creating a transverse vessel membrane.

Other members of the hull include the girders, stringers, and webs. In addition, shipbuilders may add longitudinal members for added support if the need arises.

There are two types of ship hulls

Displacement hull

This type of hull gets its support exclusively from buoyancy. Therefore, ships with this hull move at a limited speed through the water, defined by the waterline length.

The displacement hull often has more weight than the planning hull.

Planing hull

This hull has a configuration that develops a dynamic pressure to decrease the draft with increasing speed. It creates a dynamic lift that reduces the wetted surface, reducing the drag. The planing hull sometimes has a flat-bottom, v-bottom, and round bilged.

Nevertheless, the most common form of the planing hull has at least one chime that can increase the efficiency of throwing spray down.

You will gain more efficiency from this hull when you sail at higher speeds despite needing more energy to get to the speed.

The planing hulls need lightweight, flat surfaces to be effective with good sea keeping.

Semi-planing or semi-displacement hull

In this hull type, the component can generate a decent dynamic lift but relies partly on buoyance to support the vessel’s weight.

Deck House

This part of the ship looks like a house and can be found on the upper deck.


The ship continues to be an essential source of trading through seaways. It comes in different styles and sizes, with several innovations to increase its efficiency. Nevertheless, some of the parts listed above are essential to the ship’s functioning.

The less vital parts are just accessories that add to the luxury of traveling and moving cargo. It is crucial to run checks on all ship parts to ensure smooth operations and prevent a breakdown during transport.

Among all the parts listed above, three sections form the core functionality of any ship. These are the hull (the vessel’s main body), the navigation bridge (which provides control and direction to the ship), and the engine room.

Nevertheless, modern shipbuilders continue to add new technologies and equipment to improve voyages at sea. If you learned vital lessons on parts of a ship in this article, please share them with your friends.

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