Difference Between Ship and Boat

Ship vs Boat

Ship and Boat are both sea-going vessels and it is quite easy to get confused with the two, but there is distinct difference between ship and boat, which will be highlighted here. There are many kinds of watercrafts such as kayaks, canoes, catamarans, tugs, ferries, motor boats, submarines, yachts, cruise,etc. which are usually differentiated based on their sizes while categorizing some as ships and others as boats. It is a common belief that the smaller ones are always the boats while the bigger ones are the ships. While this would partly help in determining which is which, it is not entirely correct to assume so.

Primarily, histories and inventions of these sea-going crafts are the main reasons for these confusions but these aspects, as well, can give us an explanation as to how ships and boats differ from one another. For instance, many refer to submarines as ships because of their size. However, the reason for this belief is the first version of the modern submarines being attached to bigger ships in order for them to travel under water. Therefore, people have been used to call submarines as ships since then. However, let us take the definitions of these two terms, ship and boat, below.

What is a Ship?

A ship can be defined as any large buoyant water craft which are used for the transportation of people, goods, warfare, etc. It is a vessel that travels on lakes, rivers and oceans which weighs at least 500 tons. A ship is a strong and sturdy vessel that is made especially robust to travel across deep seas and is operated by well-trained sailors such as marine and naval officers. Historically, what was defined as a ship was a sailing vessel comprised of a full bowsprit and at least three square-rigged masts.

Throughout history, ships have been an integral part of warfare and this practice continues to this very day. Ships have always played a great part in exploration as well as scientific and technological development. Serving humanitarian and scientific needs, ships have also played their part in the colonization as well as in the slave trade.

Ship | Difference Between Ship and Boat

What is a Boat?

Boat is a vessel of a discreet size capable of passing across waters for usual chores. It can be defined as a watercraft of any size that is designed to float or travel on water. Shapes, size and construction of a boat depends upon the intended purpose of the boat. As a result of this, types of boats vary in nature. Human-powered vessels such as kayaks, canoes, punt and gondolas, sailing boats and motor boats like submarines and yachts are some of the boats available in the world. Every sea-going craft that is below 500 tons of weight is categorized as boats. Some other examples are catamarans, tugs and ferries. 

Boat | Difference Between Ship and Boat

What is the difference between Ship and Boat?

Even though definitions are well-explained, the thin line that separates a boat and ship are usually overlooked which makes the topic a lot more complicated. People very easily term small water crafts like kayaks and canoes as boats, but whenever they see large fishing vessels, which, obviously, are ships, they too are referred to as boats as well. However, it is inaccurate to assume so. 

A ship is bigger than a boat, and sophisticated technologies are used in building ships. As such, ships require a very large crew to manage them. Boats can fit be in a ship, and the technologies used are not very sophisticated.  They can be easily managed with fewer crew. Water crafts designed as warfare are ships; boats are not employed as war crafts.


Boat vs Ship

• Boats and ships are both water crafts.

• Boats are smaller compared to ships.

• A ship weighs at least 500 tons, boat weighs lower.

• Ships are normally for deep water navigation, boats can travel in shallow waters as well.

• Ships can carry passengers and cargo. Boats have a very limited capacity.

• Ships must be operated with an approved license from an authority; some boats do, too, but not all like regular small fishing boats.

• Some boats are human-powered, but there is no such thing as a human-powered ship nowadays.

• Ships are designed to carry boats for safeness preparation.


Further Reading:

1. Difference Between Boat and Yacht 

2. Difference Between Ocean Liner and Cruise Ship 

Image Attribution:

1. The Disney Dream Cruise Ship by peddhapati (CC BY 2.0

2. Boats waiting to be loaded with traps by Dennis Jarvis (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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