What Are Bulwarks on Ships? The Essential Role in High Seas



Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.

Bulwarks can be defined as the extension of side shell plating above the level of the weather deck which serves as a solid, providing safety to passengers and crew on board to prevent them from falling off the vessel.

Bulwarks in ships don’t play a major role in providing structural integrity and hence the plating used for them is considerably less thick than the other structural plates.

Let us get into more details to find out more.

Bulwark on ship forecastle
Bulwark on ship forecastle

Bulwark design and construction

Bulwarks are designed as per minimum requirements from those mentioned as from classification societies in terms of their minimum height and plate thickness requirements.

In open areas the height is specified to be a minimum of 1 meter as per IMO rules only in exceptions can it be less than 1m if it affects the ship’s operability. The bulwarks are normally supported by stanchions.

Diagram Of Construction Parts Of Bulwark On Ships
Diagram Of Construction Parts Of Bulwark On Ships

Special openings called freeing ports can be found on bulwarks on the level with the weather deck through which green water or water accumulated due to weather conditions can freely run off the vessel’s deck to the outside.

Structurally the bulwarks are normally supported by rail sections and stay that connect to the main deck. The spacing of these stays is normally calculated by an empirical formula given by the class society rules which are related to the ship length which is 0.93*L R not more than 1.2m apart.

In places of openings such as freeing ports, the edges are stiffened, and also in areas where mooring lines pass through the thickness is normally doubled or the necessary amount of stiffening is provided.

Also, it should be noted that the bulwarks should not be cut for any purposes at the breaks of the superstructure such that there won’t is any structural weak points to ensure efficient load transfer.

Bulwarks in Ship

Bulwark’s Advantages And Disadvantages

Bulwarks can serve multiple advantages along with some disadvantages, the main advantages of bulwarks are,

  • Provides a safe path through which passengers and crew can walk outside on the deck without the risk of falling off.
  • Fishermen use the support of a bulwark for leaning onto while casting which gives them a firm ground to reel in the fishes.
  • Bulwarks can have cutouts through which fender lines can be drawn and also fittings as cleats can also be housed on bulwarks.
  • Bulwarks also have openings called scrappers or freeing ports through which water can freely escape from the main deck to the outside.

The disadvantages are mainly the below,

  • May interfere with the operation of the vessel in certain areas for workboats and similar vessels.
  • Cannot be highly loaded in terms of pin or point loads as the plating used is comparatively much thinner when compared to other sections and won’t be able to handle higher external forces.


Bulwarks can be found throughout the vessel’s exterior boundary which plays a major role in terms of safety for passengers and crew on board and is mandatory for all vessels both commercial and non-commercial.

Finishing the Bulwarks / boatyard flood!

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest posts