Ocean liner

RMS Queen Mary, pictured during her service days, is now a floating museum in Long Beach, California – and one of the last surviving Atlantic liners.

An ocean liner is a passenger ship primarily used as a form of transportation across seas or oceans. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes (e.g., for pleasure cruises or as hospital ships).[1]

Cargo vessels running to a schedule are sometimes called liners.[2] The category does not include ferries or other vessels engaged in short-sea trading, nor dedicated cruise ships where the voyage itself, and not transportation, is the prime purpose of the trip. Nor does it include tramp steamers, even those equipped to handle limited numbers of passengers. Some shipping companies refer to themselves as "lines" and their container ships, which often operate over set routes according to established schedules, as "liners".

Ocean liners are usually strongly built with a high freeboard to withstand rough seas and adverse conditions encountered in the open ocean. Additionally, they are often designed with thicker hull plating than is found on cruise ships, and have large capacities for fuel, food and other consumables on long voyages.[3]

The first ocean liners were built in the mid-19th century. Technological innovations such as the steam engine and steel hull allowed larger and faster liners to be built, giving rise to a competition between world powers of the time, especially between the United Kingdom and Germany. Once the dominant form of travel between continents, ocean liners were rendered largely obsolete by the emergence of long-distance aircraft after World War II. Advances in automobile and railway technology also played a role. After RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 was retired in 2008, the only ship still in service as an ocean liner is the RMS Queen Mary 2. Of the many ships constructed over the decades, only nine ocean liners made before 1967 survive.


The RMS Lusitania arriving in New York in 1907.
RMS Lusitania arriving in New York in 1907. As the primary means of trans-oceanic voyages for over a century, ocean liners were essential to the transportation needs of national governments, business firms, and the general public.

Ocean liners were the primary mode of intercontinental travel for over a century, from the mid-19th century until they began to be supplanted by airliners in the 1950s. In addition to passengers, liners carried mail and cargo. Ships contracted to carry British Royal Mail used the designation RMS. Liners were also the preferred way to move gold and other high-value cargoes.[4]

Cunard Line poster of 1921, with a cutaway of the liner RMS Aquitania.

The busiest route for liners was on the North Atlantic with ships travelling between Europe and North America. It was on this route that the fastest, largest and most advanced liners travelled. But while in contemporary popular imagination the term "ocean liners" evokes these transatlantic superliners, most ocean liners historically were mid-sized vessels which served as the common carriers of passengers and freight between nations and among mother countries and their colonies and dependencies in the pre-jet age. Such routes included Europe to African and Asian colonies, Europe to South America, and migrant traffic from Europe to North America in the 19th and first two decades of the 20th centuries, and to Canada and Australia after the Second World War.

Shipping lines are companies engaged in shipping passengers and cargo, often on established routes and schedules. Regular scheduled voyages on a set route are called "line voyages" and vessels (passenger or cargo) trading on these routes to a timetable are called liners. The alternative to liner trade is "tramping" whereby vessels are notified on an ad-hoc basis as to the availability of a cargo to be transported. (In older usage, "liner" also referred to ships of the line, that is, line-of-battle ships, but that usage is now rare.) The term "ocean liner" has come to be used interchangeably with "passenger liner", although it can refer to a cargo liner or cargo-passenger liner.

Beginning at the advent of the Jet Age, where transoceanic ship service declined, a gradual transition from passenger ships as mean of transportation to nowadays cruise ships started.[5] In order for ocean liners to remain profitable, cruise lines have modified some of them to operate on cruise routes, such as Queen Elizabeth 2 and SS France. Certain characteristics of older ocean liners made them unsuitable for cruising, such as high fuel consumption, deep draught preventing them from entering shallow ports, and cabins (often windowless) designed to maximize passenger numbers rather than comfort. The Italian Line's SS Michelangelo and SS Raffaello, the last ocean liners to be built primarily for crossing the North Atlantic, could not be converted economically and had short careers.[6]

Other Languages
български: Лайнер (кораб)
dansk: Oceanskib
Ελληνικά: Υπερωκεάνειο
español: Transatlántico
français: Paquebot
한국어: 원양 정기선
Bahasa Indonesia: Kapal samudera
italiano: Transatlantico
Кыргызча: Лайнер
Nederlands: Oceaanlijner
Nouormand: Baté à viageux
português: Transatlântico
română: Pachebot
Simple English: Ocean liner
suomi: Linjalaiva
svenska: Oceanångare
українська: Лайнер