There is huge variety in the style, functions and facilities of today's ships compared to those of the forties and fifties.
The groups of ships I will deal with are warships, passenger ships, transport ships, exploration ships and cruise ships. There may be others too and I would appreciate being advised of these, so that they can be covered as well.


These rated very highly in my youth, as this was just after WW2 and everyone was aware of the various types, if not all of their functions.
Modern warships are generally divided into seven main categories, which are: aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, corvettes, submarines and amphibious assault ships. Battleships comprise an eighth category, but are not in current service with any navy in the world.

  • Battleships were huge, heavily armoured ships. At the time, they were considered virtually impregnable "Kings of the Sea", and posession of these counted strongly in diplomatic and tactical exercises.
    Later, when counter-measures such as fighter planes, mines missiles and torpedoes began to take advantage of their slowness and lack of manueverability, they were replaced with aircraft carriers. Although still very sluggish, they were able to defend better with improved design features, as well as being able to deploy aircraft very quickly.

    Picture of HMS Vanguard, the last battleship built Picture of USS Nimitz, currently the worlds largest aircraft carrier

    The last battle ship to be built was HMS Vanguard (at left). Although designed and built for use in WW2 she was not completed until after the war, due mostly to the numerous updates in design during building.
    The Nimitz (at right) is currently the world's largest aircraft carrier. Being nuclear-powered, she has unlimited range.

  • In the later 20th century, the obsolescence of the battleship left the cruiser as the largest and most powerful surface combatant (excluding aircraft carriers).

    Picture of the Russian cruiser Aurora, built in 1900 Picture of USS Port Royal, a modern cruiser

    Aurora is a 1900 Russian protected cruiser, currently preserved as a museum ship in St. Petersburg. She was one of three Pallada-class cruisers, built in St. Petersburg for service in the Pacific.
    Designed to equip amphibious forces with added firepower and operational capabilities. The role of the cruiser varied according to ship and navy, including air defense and shore bombardment. The U.S. Navy in the Cold War period built guided-missile cruisers primarily designed to provide air defense. Cruisers are now becoming less and less relevant, with only 22 left in the Ticonderoga-Class. Their main focus is now to provide the Navy with a multi-functional guided missile platform, with weapons systems such as the Tomahawk and other missiles that can engage surface and air targets, as well as conduct anti submarine missions.

  • A destroyer is a fast, maneuverable warship designed to escort larger vessels and defend them against smaller powerful short-range attackers.

    Picture of USS Winston S Churchill, a guided missile destroyer

    They are the heaviest surface combatant ships in general use, with only three nations - US, Russia, and Peru - operating the heavier class cruisers, and no battleships or true battlecruisers remaining.
    Modern destroyers are similar in size but vastly superior in firepower to cruisers of the World War II era, being capable of carrying nuclear tipped cruise missiles.
    Guided missile destroyers such as the Arleigh Burke class are actually larger and more heavily armed than most previous ships classified as guided missile cruisers, due to their massive size at 510 feet (160 m) long, displacement (9200 tons) and armament of over 90 missiles.

  • Frigates were once small, very manueverable ships with at least 28 guns that carried their weaponry on either one or two decks. They were used as support and patrol vessels.

    Picture of HMS Duke of Wellington Picture of a frigate, HMS Somerset

    Later, those with their guns on one deck were still referred to as frigates, while those with their guns mounted on two decks were referred to as ships of the line. HMS Duke of Wellington was a 131-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. Launched in 1852, she was an early steam-powered ship, but was still fitted with tall masts and trim square-set yards. She was the flagship of Sir Charles Napier.

Some famous ships from The Olden Days.
Hover mouse to see more information.

Picture of the last battleship in the world to be built, HMS VanguardHMS Vanguard Picture of Russian aircraft-carrier Admiral Kuznetsov
Admiral Kuznetsov
Picture of German battleship Bismarck

Merchant Ships"

Merchant ships are those which carry passengers or cargo for profit, although some have other, more specific applications.
Some of their uses are: undersea cable-laying, fishing and whaling, pilot and tugboat work, oil and gas transport, research, general cargo transport, and passenger cruise and travel.

Picture of Reliance, a cable-layer>
   <img src= Picture of Southern Actor, a Norwegian whalecatcher Picture of Woona, a tugboat Picture of Leo Sun, an oil tanker>
  <img src= Picture of a modern loaded cargo ship
Picture of an old passenger ship, SS Moreton Bay Picture of the currently largest passenger ship in the world, Queen Mary 2 Picture of Mighty Servant 3, a heavy cargo ship

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