The Secret Language of Ships

Unless you live near a commercial harbor or work in the industry, you might not know the ins and outs of the shipping business. And that's most of us. But tugboat operators see giant container ships up close and personal. They not only know how to haul those big ships around, they know how to read their secret language.

Tugboat crews routinely encounter what few of us will ever see. They easily read a vessel’s size, shape, function, and features, while deciphering at a glance the mysterious numbers, letters, and symbols on a ship’s hull. To non-mariners, the markings look like hieroglyphs. For those in the know, they speak volumes about a particular ship and also about the shipping industry.

The numbers, marks, and even the color scheme of a ship can tell strangers the ship's size, depth, underwater shape, origin, and how much of its capacity is loaded. There are special marks to help tugboat operators, maintenance crews, and inspectors do their work. If you've ever wondered what all that stuff on the outside of a ship means, you'll find an explanation at Hakai magazine. -via TYWKIWDBI

(Image credit: David Webster Smith)

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