Difference Between a Boat and a Ship

 Watercrafts, also called water vessels, includes boats, ships, submarines, hovercraft etc. It is used as a vehicle to move in and around the water, carry things from one place to another.

Depending on the design, watercraft are used for different purposes like seafaring cargo, fishing, leisure activities etc. It is designed in such a way that it helps to maintain the balance between speed, weightage and seaworthiness.

Boat vs Ship

The main difference between a boat and a ship is that of size. A boat is smaller than a ship. A ship is very large and humungous and can fit many boats in it. A ship can carry a weight of at least 500 tonnes. In contrast, a boat is compact due to its structure and design. A boat is operational in smaller and restricted areas. In contrast, a ship is operational in high seas and oceanic regions.

Boat vs Ship

A boat is a type of water vessel that comes in various types and sizes. A boat is smaller than a ship. A boat can fit into the ship.

Every boat has a different function to perform depending upon its design, shape, structure, capacity and ability to carry other boats.

Operational areas of boats are in lakes, ponds and rivers. Boats have been used by humans since ancient times in the form of canoes. A boat is classified into three types, i.e. human-controlled, motorboats and sailboats. 

A Ship is a very large watercraft that is used for the transportation of cargo and passengers into deep oceans and high seas. Ships are utilised for specific purposes such as in research, fishing, defence, trade etc.

Ships had always played an important role for humans as it has helped in exploration, warfare, colonialism, imperialism, science etc. Various types of ships like oil tankers, merchant ships, container ships, bulk carriers etc.

Comparison Table Between a Boat and a Ship

Parameters of ComparisonBoatShip
Navigation and TechnologyIt is a simple vessel with less system.It is a complicated vessel with heavy machinery.
CrewIt can be of one person.Professional members and engineers.
Cargo CapacityLesser capacityMade for carrying cargo.
Construction and DesignSimpler in design.Complicated in design.
PropulsionPowered by human force, sails, motor etc.Has dedicated engines to propel.

 What is a Boat?

Boats have been used since prehistoric times. Evidence of using the boats have been found in many places like from the Crete, Flores and early settlement of Australia over 1,30,000 years ago.

It played an important role in trade and commerce in various civilizations Mesopotamia, Indus valley Civilization etc. Boats are categorised into three types, i.e. unpowered or human-powered, like kayaks, gondolas, canoes etc., sailboats and motorboats.

Till the 19th century, boats were made from the material that was available naturally, i.e. from the bark of the tree, wood, reed, animal skins etc. In the mid 19th century, boats were made up of iron and steel frames planked in wood.

Hulls of boats were made from the frame of iron and steel covered with cement. As production of boats began, iron and steel became cheaper, so then all the boats were made up of steel and wood were replaced.

Then in the 20th century, aluminium boats became popular because they were less expensive, did not corrode in salty water, carried less weight.

In the 1950s and 60s, boats made up of fibreglass became famous because it suited for recreational purposes. They do not rot, corrode or rust like wooden or aluminium boats.

Propulsion used in boats can be the engine, paddle wheel, jet, rowing, paddling by man or via sailing. Boats naturally have a buoyancy force which makes them sail in the water. Otherwise, due to overload, it can sink.

What is a Ship?

A Ship is humungous in size. There is no comparison of the ship with any water vessel. Ships can remain in the water for a longer period than boats.

According to Indian law, a ship is something that carries goods in a sea or ocean. First instances of using the ships are dated back to Austronesian people now Taiwan, some 3000-1500 BC.

Ships were used by many dynasties in Europe, China, India, Japan. It was considered that they had some of the most advanced naval fleets at that time.

Till the 19th century, the designs of the ships remain unchanged. With the industrial boom, new methods of propulsion and the ability to construct, design and built triggered the change in the design of the ships.

A number of factors became important while building ships like long-running ships, increased capacity, more specialized etc. It was now built for different functions like rescue, research, firefighting etc.

In the 21st century, globally, the number of commercial vessels is almost 52,000, which carries the weight in gross of approximately 1000 tonnes each.

The size of the fishing fleet in the world is very difficult to count as fishing vessels are found almost at every village that is situated near the seas.

Various types of ships include high-speed craft, harbour work craft, cable layers, cargo ships, passenger vessels, cruise, warships, fishing vessels, special purpose vessels etc.

Main Differences Between a Boat and a Ship

  1. A boat is a simple vessel with less complicated equipment and operational systems. A ship is a complicated vessel as it needs to remain in the water for longer times with heavy machinery and navigational systems.
  2. A boat’s crew can be of one person or full-fledged, depending upon the shape and size. A ship‘s crew consist of professional members and engineers as it needs a captain and a guided crew.
  3. A boat is a small vessel that has a lesser capacity to carry cargo. A ship is a large vessel that is made for carrying cargo and passengers.
  4. A boat is simpler in design. A ship is complicated in design.
  5. A boat is powered by either human beings via rowing, paddling etc. or by sailing or using engines and motors. A ship needs dedicated engines so that it can propel forward.
Difference Between a Boat and a Ship


Both boat and ship are water vessel that is used in various regions and different parts of the world. There is no comparison between the two. Because a ship is huge and bulky in size.

A boat is a very small-sized vessel. Usage of the word ‘ship’ or ‘boat’ depends upon the area. People in various countries refer medium-size fishing vessel as a boat or recreational vessels or ferry as a ship.

So there is not very much distinction. However, on the basis of different parameters, a distinction can be made. A ship can carry multiple boats inside it. But a boat cannot carry a ship.


  1. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Henrique-Gaspar/publication/341798923_Fundamentals_Of_Digital_Twins_Applied_To_A_Plastic_Toy_Boat_And_A_Ship_Scale_Model/links/5ede480292851cf138692087/Fundamentals-Of-Digital-Twins-Applied-To-A-Plastic-Toy-Boat-And-A-Ship-Scale-Model.pdf
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1095-9270.1995.tb00706.x
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