How to Calculate Deadweight

Written by crystal mercado
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How to Calculate Deadweight
Deadweight determines the carrying capacity of a ship. (cargo ships 2 image by Aaron Kohr from

A ship's deadweight tonnage is a variable of significant importance to the shipping industry. A miscalculation in the deadweight tonnage could affect a shipping company's profits negatively and could place a transporting ship in danger. Deadweight tonnage, as opposed to cargo tonnage, the weight of the cargo being transported by the ship, or displacement, the overall weight of the ship when loaded to maximum capacity, is found by the combined calculation of other tonnages.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Find the ship's "light" displacement. This is the weight of the ship excluding cargo, stores or fuel. It is the original weight of the ship itself and is essential in calculating the ship's deadweight tonnage. This information should be part of the ship's specifications.

  2. 2

    Determine the weight of the ship when it has reached its "load line." This point is defined as the maximum amount of water the ship has been designed to safely displace, or the lowest that the ship can safely sink into the water. The ship reaches the load line by the addition of weight in the form of cargo, fuel and stores.

  3. 3

    Subtract the weight of the light displacement from the weight of the ship at its load line. The result should be the maximum amount of weight the ship can handle and safely transport, or what's otherwise known as the deadweight tonnage.

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