Ship size Terms confusion

I am new to the maritime sector so I’ve been studying all I can to learn about it. Can someone please clarify this for me:

  1. Do SHIP SIZE terms like SUEZMAX and AFRAMAX have to do with “Size” or with “Type”?
    Is AFRAMAX always refering to Tankers? Or does it only have to do with size?
    Example: A bulker with the dimensions of an Aframax would be called an Aframax?

  2. Does SUPRAMAX stem from something? Or is it just a random word?
    I’m asking because most SHIP SIZE terms have origins, like PANAMAX.

  3. I’ve been looking for DAYS about this subject, but every article and website has its own definition of each term. Are there no definitions set in stone?

Many thanks in advance for your help!

Google is your friend.

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Aframax only refers to tankers as the name comes from AFRA. Supramax seems to be a derivative of “super handymax”. The terminology seems to be quite well tied to ship types as well, i.e. there are no capesize tankers or aframax bulk carriers. Handysize appears to be an exception.

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Many thanks!
So, if I understand correctly, there are no bulkers in Aframax size. Is there a reason for that? Is it just more efficient to build them in other sizes but not this one? Or maybe the routes that bulkers limit their size?

New Panamax bulkers are quite close to Aframax in terms of dwt. Had my laptop not crashed yesterday, I could have pulled the number of bulkers with dwt equivalent to Aframax from IHS.


No – it is that AFRA is a special term pertaining only to tankers. Bulkers built to a similar size will be called something else.

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Maybe this help to clarify:
All these “max” terms are MOSTLY used for Bulkers, except SUEZMAX, which as the name imply is the max. size of ship that can pass the Suez canal when fully loaded.
AFRAMAX is a purely tanker term and refers to medium size dirty tankers (80-120000 DWT)
FYI: AFRA = Average Freight Rate Assessment.

PS> Less frequently used are Malaccamax, which refer to tankers (or bulkers) that is able to pass Malacca/Singapore Straits fully loaded at a draft not exceeding 20.5 m. (Up to 320000 DWT)

Tankers/Bulkers larger than that are referred to as ULCC/ULOC and usually use Lombok Strait to get from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

PPS: Found these charts that tells you all:


NOTE: It is possible to go through Malacca/ Singapore Strait with 82 ft (25 m.) draft, following the deep draft route and passing the shallowest parts at HW, but 21 m. is recommendations by relevant Authorities. (UKC 3.5 m. subject to Master’s and Owner’s approval)


There are also confusion,especially among non-mariners, about the different “Tonnages” of ships.
Here is a simplified explanation for those who have been wondering:

Please note:

This apply everywhere except for vessels in US inland and domestic trade, but will be phased out even there by ??? (I cannot find any definite date/info)