Parts of a Ship and Their Functions

Ships are made from a combination of steel and composite materials and have many structural parts both visible and invisible. The main parts of a ship are the anchor, bow, bow thrusters, accommodation, deck, hull, keel, freeboard, engine room, funnel, navigation bridge, forecastle, propeller, rudder, and mast. This blog will explain what each of these is, as well as their function.


An anchor is a heavy metal piece attached to chain cables. It is stored in the hose pipe during the ship’s operation. They can be either permanent or temporary, though all ships carrying anchors are the temporary type as they are not always fixed to the same position and are lowered to different depths depending on specific needs. The function of the anchor is to secure the ship in place against natural forces like wind, tide current, and more.


The bow is the front most part of a ship that cuts the water to each side as the ship proceeds. Each bow must meet two requirements: it must minimize drag between the water and hull and it must be tall enough to prevent water from easily splashing on top of it. The primary function of the bow is to reduce drag and resistance and allow the ship to more easily move through the water.

Bow Thrusters

A bow thruster is a propeller-like device that appears on both sides of a ship’s bow. It is used to increase the maneuverability of a ship in high-traffic waters at slow speeds, like when in canals or near ports. The function of the bow thrusters is to assist the captain in maneuvering the ship when its speed is too low to be effectively controlled by the rudder alone.


The accommodation is the area of a ship where the crew resides. This area will feature offices, crew cabins, gyms, recreation rooms, laundry facilities, and more. The accommodation area also contains major systems such as the fresh water system, refrigeration system, garbage disposal system, sewage treatment plant and air conditioning. Its function is as a living space. Under maritime labor law, accommodation facilities are required.


The deck is a floor or covering that encloses the hull’s structure. A ship can have different decks at different sections or parts of the ship. The topmost deck is known as the main deck or weather deck. The function of a deck is to hold the hull structure and provide different floors to the ship. It also provides space and floor for people and equipment to work while remaining protected from outside weather.


The hull is the part of the ship that extends below the waterline to prevent water from entering the ship. Everything within the main ship structure is protected by the hull. The hull is made up of a series of plates (called stakes) joined together along with other structures such as plating and stiffeners. The primary function of the hull is to maintain the watertight integrity of the ship while also helping reduce drag. The hull is coated with special paints that reduce friction drag and reduce marine growth like algae, weeds, and other organisms.


Part of the ship’s hull, the keel is responsible for reinforcing the ship's structure by spreading stress and load equally along its longitudinal sides. Due to its role in supporting the ship’s structure, the keel is often referred to as the backbone of the ship. Its function is to stabilize and support the ship's structure while also playing an important role in increasing the ship’s effective speed.


The freeboard is a section of the ship’s hull above the waterline. It is the distance between the upper deck of the ship and the point of the waterline. It is not a fixed size, but rather depends on the amount of cargo being carried. The function of the freeboard is to maintain the ship's stability and prevent it from sinking.

Engine Room

A ship’s engine room is the powerhouse of the ship. Located on the lowest deck, it contains critical machinery such as the main and auxiliary engines, shafting, boiler, fresh water generator, air compressor, purifier, incinerator, pumps, heat exchangers, and more. The primary function of the engine room is to hold the crucial machinery and auxiliaries required for different operations on board the ship.


The funnel can be considered the chimney of the ship. It is used to direct exhaust gases and release them into the atmosphere. The function of the funnel is to safely release exhaust gas produced in the engine room to the outside atmosphere. Thanks to the forward motion of the ship and the funnel’s slight tilt towards the aft, exhaust gas is easily directed away from the ship.

Navigation Bridge

Considered the brain of the ship, the navigation bridge is a wide platform atop the accommodation from which the ship is controlled. The main part of the bridge, where the ship is steered, is called the pilot house. Maritime law dictates that it should be constructed such that it provides an unobstructed view from 120 degrees port to 120 degrees starboard. The navigation bridge’s function is to provide space for officers to look out and maneuver safely.


This is the foremost part of the ship. The forecastle can be easily identified on a ship structure by a sudden rise in the fore deck near the ship's bow. Its function is to hold all the necessary equipment related to anchoring operation. On navy ships, in addition to this, the forecastle is also a strategic defensive gun position.


The propeller is a mechanical device with blades fitted on its shaft. The function of the propeller is to rotate with the shaft to produce the necessary thrust to propel a ship. The propeller of ship produces thrust by converting the rotational energy of its blades into pressure energy.


Located aft of the propeller, the rudder is a flat hollow structure that moves on its axis to help steer the ship. It consists of the rudder trunk, main rudder blade, movable flap, hinge system, links and rudder carrier bearing.


Lastly, the mast of a ship is a vertical structure mounted on top of the bridge and ahead of the forecastle. Its function is to support the platform for the ship’s derrick and contains equipment including radars, navigation lights, and the horn.

Purchasing 3Sixty is a supplier of Marine Engine Parts, Marine Electronic Supplies, Marine Jet Drive Parts, Marine Fuel System Parts, Marine GPS Parts, and much more. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all types of unique parts for the marine, aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries. Our dedicated account managers are standing by and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at or call us at +1-714-705-4780.


February 10, 2020
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