Feeder Vessels

In international shipping, we tend to throw around terms even though not everyone knows what they mean. One of the terms we hear a lot in the shipping industry is “feeder vessel”. Although it sounds self explanatory, many people do not know what a feeder vessel actually is. In short, feeder vessels are the small ships that take shorter trips in and out of hub ports. Feeder vessels can be barges or just small ships. Many have their own cranes so they can load and unload containers on their own.

Feeders are the vessels that pick up shipping containers from the smaller ports that have less traffic and bring them to the larger vessels for their main voyage. This way the main larger vessel or “mother vessel” does not have to make so many stops and since feeders are usually smaller they can easily navigate the smaller ports. This is also why many of the have the cranes. Not all ports have the equipment needed to load containers so having cranes allow them to still service those ports.

Feeders also allow the proper loading of the mother vessels since they are loaded at a hub port. This makes for a smooth transfer of goods and there are fewer issues in loading safely for their way across the ocean. If a ship is not loaded right according to weights, the ship can be lopsided and can have trouble if they get caught in high seas.

Feeders are the main reason larger container shipping lines are able to service so many ports around the world. They continue to be an important part of the logistics process. From barges to smaller ships, feeders allow the shipping industry to service the entire world.