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Difference between a Liner and Tramp service

You might have heard of the terminology Tramp service or Tramper or Tramp vessel and also about the terminology Liner Service.. What is the difference between the two..??image for liner vessel

Liner Service – is a service that operates within a schedule and has a fixed port rotation with published dates of calls at the advertised ports.. A liner service generally fulfils the schedule unless in cases where a call at one of the ports has been unduly delayed due to natural or man-mad causes..

Example : The UK/NWC continent container service of MSC which has a fixed weekly schedule calling the South African ports of Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and carrying cargo to the UK/NWC ports of Felixstowe, Antwerp, Hamburg, Le Havre and Rotterdam..

Liner shipping relates not just to containers, but also to other types of cargoes which have a regular and fixed routing/service like RoRo services, Bulk cargo services on a COA or long-term charter..

image for tramp vesselA Tramp Service or tramper, on the other hand, is a ship that has no fixed routing or itinerary or schedule and is available at short notice (or fixture) to load any cargo from any port to any port..

Example : A ship that arrives at Durban from Korea to discharge cargo might carry some other cargo from Durban to the Oakland in the West Coast of USA which is in an entirely different direction.. From Oakland, it could carry some cargo to Bremerhaven..

One of the main differences between Liner and Tramp would be in the type of contract of carriage and Bill of Lading used..

In the case of a Liner, generally the shipping line operating the liner service will have their own pre-printed bill of lading or use a BIMCO ConLineBill, whereas in the case of a Tramp service (which may be covered by a Charter Party), a bill of lading like the BIMCO ConGenBill will be used depending on the cargo, charter party etc..


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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. Here you can find the main difference between a Liner Service and a Tramp one.

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    Liner trade

    SCHEDULE: It is a service that operates within a schedule and has a fixed port rotation with published dates of calls at the advertised ports. It does this with regularity and frequency that conforms to an advertised schedule.

    COMMON CARRIER: This means that any shipper may have their cargo carried so long as they are prepared to pay the rate quoted and abide by the liner operator’s terms and conditions. In the USA and elsewhere, the expression ‘common carrier’ has a strict legal definition.

    TYPE OF CARGO: A liner always carries manufactured goods, very often in small consignments.

    SHIPPERS: A liner carries the goods of several, often numerous, shippers; it is for this reason that goods carried by liners are referred to as general cargo. Because a line carries many consignments the contract of carriage is not subject to individual negotiation and the shipper has to accept the line’s standard conditions of carriage.

    DOCUMENT: The bill of lading. It is vital to fix in one’s mind that a b/l has three functions. Receipt of cargo, Evidence of contract, and Document of title (RED). For instance the BIMCO ConLineBill.

    Tramp trade

    SCHEDULE: This is in contrast to tramp, which follows no schedule and may trade among a wide variety of ports according to the market at the time. The sectors within the shipping business are referred to as markets. This is because at some stage there is a short of negotiation between two parties that is characteristic of a market.. The bulk trades especially are driven by the laws of supply and demand internationally. Economists refer to the chartering markets as perfect competition.

    PRIVATE CARRIER: This means that the cargo is individually negotiated and an agreement signed.

    TYPE OF CARGO: A tramp usually carries raw materials, very often in bulk. The dry cargo chartering markets are composed of specialties such as grain, coal, and iron ore.

    SHIPPERS: A tramp generally carries the goods for one shipper.

    DOCUMENT: The charter party. There are two basic ways a ship can be chartered: Voyage charter (by this means the merchant charters the ship to carry an agreed quantity of cargo from A to B) and Time charter (by this means that the charterer hires the vessel for a period of time instead of paying a rate of freight per tonne, the charterer pays a hire rate per day). For instance BIMCO ConGenBill

  2. Dear frnds, i studied maritime mgt expecting nysc soon, can anyone guide me on wot to do to b posted to maritime industry to serve, instead of classroom. Tnx

    • NO the charter parties take part only in the hiring of ships for the cargo transportation services while the tramp services is the shipping of either try or liquid bulk cargo from one nearby port to the other for other ships to fully transport them to their main destinations

  3. just ask about dry bulk vessel in the world , most of them are tramp vessel ?
    focusing on China, they import Hugh iron ore and export other things to world , are there tramp ?
    which one is driven the world seaborne trande between Tramp and liner ?

    • Liners have more than 80% of the seaborne trade, on volume basis and tramps are relatively minor players

  4. Hello Guys

    I wish to know more about the main difference between the type of cargo carried by a liner and a tramp.

    • As a thumb rule, the loose bulk cargo is carried by the tramps whereas containerised and packaged cargo is carried by the liners. However, the business lines are not watertight compartments and there are exceptions.

  5. Dear Guys,
    Recently in my class our lecturer asked one question what is different between Tramp & Liner i have find so many links but i couldn’t find easy answer but through this notes i have taken the notes point wise one by one it’s very easy pick our knowledge this is the way to learn thanks for your corporation and understanding in this regard.

  6. I never known much about this information until I found this post. Thanks for sharing this very useful information. I am glad I cam accross your site.

  7. Liners carry goods in large quanties from merchants and consigners. Tramps ships, on the other hand, often carry cargo on a more random, per-load basis. The primary advantage of ships is their ability to carry tons of merchandise and equipment. They transport many of the world’s finite resources, including oil and coal.

  8. Liner Shipping means a specific mode of ocean transportation services where a shipping company operates their fleet of vessel for carriage of goods between fixed ports,at regular intervals under publicly advertised schedule. Chartering on the other hand refers to a kind of shipping business, where the entire ship is hired by a shipper or charterer either for a particular voyage or for a period of time say six months or one year, to fulfill his business commitment under some mutually agreed terms and conditions which is known as “Charter Party” in shipping trade. Thanks

    • Oscar, it not always easy to identify the issuer of a bill of lading based on bill of lading number.. There are some big lines like MSC, Hapag Lloyd etc that issue bills with a bill of lading prefix like MSCU, HLCU etc which helps to identify the shipping line..

      But not all lines do this.. Especially if the bill of lading is issued by an NVOCC, not many people know those prefixes..

      This prefix you have provided is new to me and the only way you can tracking your cargo is by going to the website of the shipping line/nvocc or forwarder that issued the bill of lading, providing of course the site offers a tracking facility..

  9. I think occean liners carry more goods than tramp liners because there is always a particular time schedule for occean liner to carry goods…Thanks

    • Hi Clarence, even though it is called tramp services, they provide the same first class shipping service that most liner services provide albeit at different intervals depending on the contract.. For this reason, tramps can be a competition to the liner service.. However, the advantage that the liner has is the frequency of sailings and the regular ports of call..

    • Hi Lazar, tramps are not designed to carry dry bulk, rather dry bulk moves a lot on tramp vsls.. It is because unless there is a COA, in most cases dry bulk does not have the regularity and pattern of other cargoes.. Tramp is just the name given to the service because of its nature to go anywhere in the world.. However if those same ships get a fixed cargo pattern they will follow that and could become a liner service..

  10. liner takes assorted type of cargo(heterogeneous) but tramp takes one type of cargo(homogeneous).the contract for liner is the bill of lading whiles for tramp,is the charter party.

  11. the introduction of rules of hague brought a certainty of contract to shippers and carriers introduicing a universally accepted convention for the first time to international trade.
    Hague visby was a revision of hague rules,principallya ffecting limitation of liability.

  12. Why were hague and hague visby rules introduced? Why have countries incoporated the hamburg rules in thier own maritime law?

  13. the purpose of tramp ship is provide a convenient and economical means to transport goods that require cross ocean movement. one of the key characteristic of tramp shipping is to seek cargoes all over the world and provide flexibility in sea transport to satisfy the needs of world trade. the tramp ship can be only vessel that does not have a fixed itinerary and mainly carries dry cargoes in bulk from one port to one or more different ports. tramp ship go from place to place depending upon where they can find cargoes. tramp shipping mainly carries only one comodity at a time and usually carries cargo from one shipper. tramp ships carry dry bulk cargoes that are used by many industries. a main function of liner shipping is to to satisfy the demand for regular transport under which cargoes are transported through regular routes and with regular schedules. liner ship is mainly made up of manufactured or partly manufactured goods. the majority of liner ship is carried in containers. liner ship is more expensive vessels than tramp ship because their building and operating costs are usually higher.

  14. Hi Kunayusof

    The main thing about a Tramp service is the fact that they operate on a very flexible schedule in search of cargo worldwide. They carry primary bulk cargo’s and are known to wait till they have a full vessel before sailing on again. Tramp companies are a lot smaller than the Liner companies and their business demands an intimate knowledge of market conditions.

    Liner companies rely on the fact that they offer very reliable day named service to clients, however there are down sides to this in that if the schedule is not maintained then the clients will not support the line again.

    • Tramp are for Bulk and BB and mostly for raw materials while Liner are for containerized commodities and manufactured goods in addition to RORO Svc


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