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What is Deck Cargo?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 28, 2024
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Deck cargo is shipping cargo carried on the deck instead of inside the ship. Certain types of cargo must be carried on the deck by law, while others may be carried on deck by convenience or to address space concerns while loading the ship. Such cargo must be carefully secured to prevent losses and reduce the risk of injury on the part of the ship's crew, as people will be directly exposed to the deck cargo while working on the ship.

Livestock is often carried as deck cargo when there are concerns about ventilation and safety belowdecks. Specialized pens may be built on deck or livestock can be carried in crates. Another object carried in this manner is explosives. In many regions, people cannot carry explosives belowdecks for safety reasons. In addition to being carried on deck, they also need to be clearly labeled so people are aware of the risks.

Aircraft, trucks, and other large cargoes may be carried on deck as it may not be possible to stow them belowdecks. Either they are so large that they cannot fit inside the cargo space, or the openings to the cargo hold are not large enough, or the cranes and other devices used for cargo handling in the hold are not rated for such heavy loads. Sometimes, large cargo is carried in pieces, as seen with aircraft, where the wings may be detached and carried separately to allow the whole plane to fit on a ship. Timber and other building materials can also be classified as deck cargo, along with things like prefabricated materials for construction.

Deck cargo can be carried in containers in some cases, while in others, it may be lashed directly to the decks of the ship and covered with protective materials. For bulky and large cargoes too big for containerization, this may be necessary. In all cases, the cargo is thoroughly inspected when it is placed and the load is carefully balanced for safety. Papers documenting the type of cargo and its history must also be carried, including lading papers detailing where the cargo originated and where it is going.

Insurers typically treat deck cargo differently than other types of cargo. There is an increased risk of loss with such cargo and insurers may limit situations where they will pay claims, or require people to buy separate cargo insurance for this type of cargo. This is done to reduce liability for the insurer.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By JaneAir — On Sep 21, 2011

@indemnifyme - Interesting. I would have thought that cargo is cargo, where ever it is on the ship but I guess not!

It makes sense that certain things would be stowed on the deck though. Especially in the case of explosives! Imagine if explosives were stored in the hold and they blew up. It would probably be a lot worse than if they blew up on the deck.

By indemnifyme — On Sep 20, 2011

I just wanted to reiterate what the article said about insurers treating deck cargo differently than other cargo. They really do!

If you carry cargo, make sure to read over your insurance policy carefully and make sure deck cargo isn't excluded. If it is excluded, find out how you can get the coverage. Trust me, you want all of your cargo to be covered by insurance!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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