A ship is a large watercraft that travels the world’s oceans and other sufficiently deep waterways, carrying passengers or goods, or in support of specialized missions, such as defense, research and fishing. Historically, a “ship” was a sailing vessel with at least three square-rigged masts and a full bowsprit.

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Ships have been important contributors to human migration and commerce. They have supported the spread of colonization and the slave trade, but have also served scientific, cultural, and humanitarian needs. After the 15th century, new crops that had come from and to the Americas via the European seafarers significantly contributed to the world population growth. Ship transport is responsible for the largest portion of world commerce.

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Passenger Ships

Passenger Ships

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Ships are generally larger than boats, but there is no universally accepted distinction between the two. Ships generally can remain at sea for longer periods of time than boats. A legal definition of ship from Indian case law is a vessel that carries goods by sea. A common notion is that a ship can carry a boat, but not vice versa. A US Navy rule of thumb is that ships heel towards the outside of a sharp turn, whereas boats heel towards the inside because of the relative location of the center of mass versus the center of buoyancy.

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In most maritime traditions ships have individual names, and modern ships may belong to a ship class often named after its first ship. In the northern parts of Europe and America a ship is traditionally referred to with a female grammatical gender, represented in English with the pronoun “she”, even if named after a man. This is not universal usage and some English language journalistic style guides advise using “it” as referring to ships with female pronouns can be seen as offensive and outdated. In many documents the ship name is introduced with a ship prefix being an abbreviation of the ship class, for example “MS” (motor ship) or “SV” (sailing vessel), making it easier to distinguish a ship name from other individual names in a text.


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