Tankers, Cruise Ships, or Bulk Carriers: Which Type of Ship is Better?

by | Last updated Nov 24, 2023 | Ship Types, Vessel Information | 0 comments

At first glance, this question is full of biases. Each of us has our own ideal picture of the “best type of ship”. You may already have your answer to this.

In fact, you may feel strongly about it. If this post makes it to social media, I wouldn’t be surprised by the various reactions it may earn from my fellow seamen.

Here’s an example.

For me, the best type of ship is a Product/ Chemical Tanker. You may disagree with me all day but you can’t force me to change my opinion. Even if you slap me with stories of explosions and chemical hazards, I still won’t budge.

But if you are sailing with Bulk Carriers or Cruise Ships and I will tell you that Tankers are the best, you would think that I’m crazy. Moreover, you may believe that the “Tanker Effect” has taken over my brain giving me this result.

But let’s take a look at some defining factors in deciding the type of ship which is the best for us.



You can see this sign written in front of the superstructure on many ships. Budget, I mean safety is the company’s number one concern.

Since safety is a broad and intricate topic, let’s use ship losses as the basis for our data. Here, we define ship loss as a vessel being incapacitated in any way to continue her voyage.

This includes foundering (sunk or submerged), wrecked/ stranded (grounded), fire and explosion, collision, machinery damage or failure, hull damage, piracy, and missing overdue.

Ship loss is the ultimate and most horrifying tragedy the vessel’s crew and shipowner experience. This is the reason why I’m using this for our statistics.

Ship Losses

Let’s look at some data.

Type of ship and their losses from 2008 to 2017
Ship Losses 2008 to 2017

Woah! What a mouthful, isn’t it? I highlighted the three ship types that we are focusing on so we won’t get lost.

According to the statistics above, Bulk carriers have the most number of incidents- 98 ship losses from 2008 to 2017. They are followed by Tanker vessels with 79 total losses. Lastly, the safest ship in this criteria seems to be the Passenger ship.

Do we have a winner here?

Not yet. To get a clearer picture, we have to consider the number of vessels for each kind.

Ship Type Population

Here is the record for the population of each type according to German research company, Statista. Again, I highlighted our three featured vessels.

Ship population according to type from January 2011 to January 2017.
Ship population according to type 2017

Tankers are further categorized into three types. I took the pleasure of adding them to have a better view. This time, tanker ships top our data with an overall number of 14,512.

To determine which ship type has more losses in relation to their population, I refined the data from above. Here’s the result.

Percentage of vessel type losses in relation to its population.
% of losses in relation to its population.

Now we have a winner!

According to the result, Tankers are the safest! They have a 0.54% loss in relation to their total population. To put it more simply, one tanker ship is lost at sea for every 184 of them.

Tanker vessels are also three times safer than passenger ships having 1.5% losses of their entire population than 0.54%.


While safety is the highest priority in any ship, this is not the case when applying for the next company. Oftentimes, the top determining factor for most seamen is,

“How much is the salary?”

Salary really matters. If you were to choose between US$1,600.00 versus US$1,400.00 on the same rank, which would you take? Yes, I hear you loud and clear. One-six, of course!

Captain’s Salary

How much is the salary of a Captain?

Since we are comparing moolah here, let’s start first with the highest rank. You really won’t believe who gets paid the most on our three three ship types!

Captain's salary on the three ship types
Captain’s salary on the three ship types


Okay, mates. Let’s pack up and start cruising while working!

I was blown away by how much cruise ship captains earn. You know they have all the good things while sailing.

After departure, they chat with the guests while enjoying an expensive bottle of wine. Yet, they earn so much more than other back-breaking, less glamorous ship types.


While captains and officers enjoy their paperwork on board, let’s take a look at how much an Able-bodied Seaman earns in a month.

I also took the pleasure of choosing ABs for our comparisons since they make up a huge population of the seafaring industry.

Salary of Able-bodied seaman on three vessel types- tankers, bulk carriers, cruise ships.
Salary Able-bodied seaman

Tanker ABs earn a slight difference on paper. With this data, we can conclude or at least have a slight idea of the differences in salaries on each ship type.

However, I believe ratings on cruise vessels can surpass others because of overtime, tips, and extra services.

If you want a career on board, I suggest going on cruise or passenger ships. They have higher pay, nice voyages, more people, and good food. On top of that, they also earn more than other less exciting vessels.

Work and Work Environment

I know what’s on your mind. Tanker ships!

Tanker crews are always exposed to fumes. They can’t escape this. The smell of gasoline, naphtha, diesel, and other cargoes remains on deck. Even if the tank is washed, there will always be lingering traces of cargo that you can inhale.

Meanwhile, crew on bulk carriers also face health hazards depending on the cargo. But I would say that they are always busy during cargo operations. Their deck could be very dusty.

And while the clamshell is flying, you can see them sweeping off the dust or grains on deck or inside the hold.

Once I sailed with a crew who used to work on bulk carriers for many years. After his first contract on a product/ chemical tanker, he never went back to the dry ships. I think he loved the smell of gasoline while on watch.

Kidding aside, he immediately saw the work difference on both ships. During the cargo operation, he can’t believe he’s just sitting down most of his duty. It’s very relaxing. He only makes visual inspections on the deck twice every hour. He can’t do this on his previous ships.

Shall we talk about Cruise Ships too?

We all know that each ship has its own level of work difficulty. But when you are on cruise ships, I think the worst that you can do is to displease your passenger. He or she may slap you for messing with his shirt. Then your department head would come to rescue him. Poor you.

The real challenge in working with cruise ships is maintaining excellent service. I may have to agree that passenger vessels carry the most dangerous cargo of all ship types.

Their cargoes can be irate, irrational, drunk, or a grumbler. They can post on social media and talk about their good or bad experience.

When you load 1,000 passengers and only one of them is missing during “unloading”, you are in deep trouble.

Meanwhile, we don’t have such problems on bulk or tanker vessels.


For those who work with tankers all throughout their lives, they would be inclined to say that their ship is much better.

On the other hand, crew on bulk carriers also have the same claim.

Cruise ship crews would point out the scariest reports from tankers and bulkers too defending the ship type that they belong.

In reality, each of them has its own pros and cons. They are built for specific purposes to cater to different demands in the world economy. No vessel type is superior or inferior to other kind. What’s good for you may not be for me and vice versa.

Only one thing is certain. Our experience with them ultimately tells the story of which is the best ship type for us. Sometimes, it’s not about the money too.

Whatever type of vessel you are sailing right now, know that we are on the same seas.

And may the winds be in your favor.



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