Merchant ship

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Container ship Colombo Express in the port of Hamburg
Historic merchant ship: a Dutch flute from the late 17th century

In the legal sense, all non-state ships (the merchant fleet ) are referred to as merchant ships or outdated merchant ships . Article 27 of the German Basic Law states: "All German merchant ships form a single merchant fleet."

In a narrower sense is meant by a merchant vessel the transport of goods or people for commercial purposes serving ship . Fishing ships , research ships and pleasure craft , on the other hand, are not merchant ships, but belong to merchant ships if the intention is to make a profit .


Merchant ships are ocean-going ships that are operated with the intention of making a profit.

Every merchant ship requires:

  1. a driving permit
  2. a manning certificate
  3. a boating equipment certificate or safety certificate

These documents are issued by the ship safety department of the BG Verkehr (formerly See-Berufsgenossenschaft ).

Work on German merchant ships is regulated in the Maritime Labor Act (SeeArbG). The SeeArbG is a special part of the German Labor Act, which contains the special regulations for work at sea. It results from the implementation of the international maritime labor convention of 2006. Before that, the Seaman's Act regulated this area.

Pleasure craft

Pleasure craft flying the German flag that are operated with the intention of making a profit are counted as merchant ships. This includes, for example, all ships flying the German flag with which training is carried out for a fee (sailing school, motorboat school).

Types of merchant ships

Inland tanker Julius Beckmann on the Main near Frankfurt

A distinction is made between merchant ships depending on the trade area:

Common types of ships include:

The port tug Michel turns a car transporter in the port of Hamburg

In addition, there are many types of special ships for other tasks that also count as merchant ships, such as

Merchant shipping

Baltic Prestige coaster

Even if the importance of passenger ships for long-distance travel has declined, the major trading nations are heavily dependent on sea ​​trade and thus on merchant ships for goods traffic .

Web links

Commons : Merchant Ships  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Merchant ship  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Kauffahrteischiff  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Single receipts

  1. Christian Bubenzer, Runa Jörgens: Praxishandbuch Searbeitsrecht , Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 2015, p. 19ff
  2. ^ Federal Foreign Office: International Maritime Transport