Friday, February 12, 2010


Dear (s)

After my sharing an article on ‘ship breaking’ there were some queries and most of them related to LDT. Here is something further on the subject.

There are reports that ship scrapping has hit a new high in china with 3.2M LDT last year due to overcapacity in global shipping markets. It is stated that a total of 440 vessels comprising 3.2m ldt were scrapped at Chinese yards in 2009.  In ship breaking industry, LDT is light displacement tonnage which in simple terms is the weight of water displaced by the ship – the mass of the ship excluding cargo, fuel, ballast, stores, passengers, crew, but with water in boilers to steaming level. Displacement is a measurement of mass, and should not be confused with similarly named measurements of volume or capacity such as net tonnage, gross tonnage, or deadweight tonnage.

To understand this with a simple analogy, imagine a container (not the 20 or 40 footer but simply a vessel) brimming with water inside – displacement would be the mass of water that would spill out if the ship were to be placed into it. A small glitch here would be due to variance in density. The density (mass per unit of volume) of water can vary. For example, the average density of seawater at the surface of the ocean is 1025 kg/m³ (10.25 lb/ga, 8.55 lb/US gallon), fresh water on the other hand has a density of about 1000 kg/m³ (10.00 lb/ga, 8.35 lb/US gallon). Thus the displacement in fresh water would more than it would do in salt water.

Understand that prior to passing of MS Act of 1876 in Britain, the ship-owners could load their vessels until their decks were almost awash, resulting in a dangerously unstable condition. Samuel Plimsoll, a member of Parliament, realised the problem and engaged some engineers to derive a fairly simple formula to determine the position of a line on the side of any specific ship's hull which, when it reached the surface of the water during loading of cargo, meant the ship had reached its maximum safe loading level.

To this day, that mark, called the "Plimsoll Mark", exists on ships' sides, and consists of a circle with a horizontal line through the centre.

Because different types of water, (summer, fresh, tropical fresh, winter north Atlantic) have different densities, subsequent regulations required painting a group of lines forward of the Plimsoll mark to indicate the safe depth (or freeboard above the surface) to which a specific ship could load in water of various densities.

Measuring any vessel could be on the following parameters :

Length : Overall; between perpendiculars, & at waterline.

Breadth : Beam

Depth : Draft, moulded depth, freeboard

Volume : GRT, Net, Panama Canal, Thames measurement, GRT, NRT etc.,

Capacity : DWT ; TEU

Weight : Displacement, Loaded, standard, light & normal displacement.

Now having seen this, here is something on the different kinds based on tonnage. Tonnage is a measure of the size or cargo carrying capacity of a ship. The term derives from the taxation paid on tuns or casks of wine, and was later used in reference to the weight of a ship's cargo:-  

Gross Register Tonnage (GRT) : represents the total internal volume of a vessel, where a register ton is equal to a volume of 100 cubic feet (5.83 m³), which volume, if filled with fresh water, would weigh around 5800 kg or 5.8 tonnes.

GRT being a measure of volume, could be complex at times. As you can understand – grain in bulk would occupy some space including its air space, baled cargo would be different.

Net Register Tonnage (NRT) : is the volume of cargo the vessel can carry; ie. the Gross Register Tonnage less the volume of spaces that will not hold cargo (e.g. engine compartment, helm station, crew spaces, etc., again with differences depending on which port or country is doing the calculations). It represents the volume of the ship available for transporting freight or passengers.

Net tonnage (NT) : this is a volumetric composition of all cargo spaces of the ship. This term has replaced NRT in recent times especially after 1994.

Gross Tonnage (GT) : as a natural corollary is the volume of all enclosed spaces (from keel to funnel) in a ship.

The reference to various measurement systems are in vogue as they would be relevant to various users – registration fee, harbour dues etc., would be based on Gross tonnage.

In ship scrapping, it is the weight of the ship that matters and hence it is LDT

Light Displacement tonnage (LDT) : Displacement is the actual total weight of the vessel. It is often expressed in long tons or in metric tons, and is calculated simply by multiplying the volume of the hull below the waterline (ie. the volume of water it is displacing) by the density of the water. (Note that the density will depend on whether the vessel is in fresh or salt water, or is in the tropics, where water is warmer and hence less dense.) For example, in sea water, first determine the volume of the submerged portion of the hull as follows: Multiply its length by its breadth and the draft, all in feet. Then multiply the product thereby obtained by the block coefficient of the hull to get the hull volume in cubic feet. Then multiply this figure by 64 (the weight of one cubic foot of seawater) to get the weight of the ship in pounds; or divide by 35 to calculate the weight in long tons. Using the SI or metric system : displacement (in tonnes) is volume (in m³) multiplied by the specific gravity of sea water (1.025 nominally).

The word "displacement" arises from the basic physical law, discovered by Archimedes, that the weight of a floating object equates exactly to that of the water which would otherwise occupy the "hole in the water" displaced by the ship.

Lightship or Lightweight measures the actual weight of the ship with no fuel, passengers, cargo, water, etc. on board.

Deadweight tonnage (DWT) is the displacement at any loaded condition minus the lightship weight. It includes the crew, passengers, cargo, fuel, water, and stores. Like Displacement, it is often expressed in long tons or in metric tons.

Hope this provides some more clarity. As usual look forward to your feedback.

Regards – S Sampathkumar.


  1. Dear Mr. Sampathkumar,

    The information about LDT, GRT, NT etc. have been very well explained. This has helped me understanding these terms to pursue a ship dismantling ( scrap )deal.

    Pradeep Grover
    IGI Canada

  2. Dear Mr. Sampathkumar:

    Very well explained - thanks for improving my knowledge.

    As an aside my grandparents lived in Triplicane (in one of the bylanes near Kenneth (?) School)

    Look forward to more such marine related articles (my area of interest as an investor)

    Warm regards,

  3. Thanks. There is a Kellet High School which alongwith Hindu High School is age old institution of Triplicane.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  4. Thanks a lot for the knowledge.It helps a lot.

  5. Quite interesting - Felix

  6. Very good. did you ever sail ? - Alex Thomson

  7. Great info block - really wonder.. Alex

  8. so much about ship - still explained lucidly - Peter thompson

  9. Great blog - exceptional flow and neatly presented - all good : Thomas

  10. Very good news to learn from you,i hope any doubts i can contact you.because iam in scrap,if you have any details regarding this please feel free to contact;

  11. Dear Mr. Sampathkumar,

    The information about LDT, GRT, NT etc. have been very well explained.Can you suggest me who can I know the official LDT of the vessels being brought to Alang Ship Breaking Yard, Gujarat for breaking. You may suggest the name of web sites from where I can get the details of LDT of the Vessel meant for breaking.

  12. Dear Mr. Sampathkumar,

    The information about LDT, GRT, NT etc. have been very well explained.Can you suggest me who can I know the official LDT of the vessels being brought to Alang Ship Breaking Yard, Gujarat for breaking. You may suggest the name of web sites from where I can get the details of LDT of the Vessel meant for breaking. My E mail ID is

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  14. Dear Sampathkumar

    Excellent post - so much of information - valuable to be put in a book.. thanks for the post


  15. Wow - great post - learnt a lot - Mamta

  16. Excellent ! Well explained !! when one shares knowledge like this, it is indeed a great sharing. we all grow in a very healthy surrounding. God Bless !!!

  17. Dear sir,may I know the official LDT of the vessels being brought for breaking.pls explain how i can calculate vessel LDT..pls revert at

    sushil nain

  18. Sir, a great post... exhibits your profound knowledge... Anjana

  19. Joint int this case, could you please explain us about my case. The barge have daraft reading 4/090 M in fresh water with 0.995 of Density FYI cargo on barge are Coal in bulk Freboard 1.076 M tROPICAL POINT . If the barge goes to sea water how many CM draft reading will change?


  20. Great article.
    By the way, if anyone knows any cash buyers of vessels, please email me at
    I have few vessels for sale. ( i am an intermediate, not owner)

  21. Reference to your definition of Gross Register Tonnage (GRT), 100 cubic feet is equivalent to 5.83 m³. If I am not wrong, it should be 2.83 m³. Please confirm.

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