All ships generally demand to be built out of the same structural components. Because of that it is not that simple to divide them by types. Paulet and Presles suggest classifying ships based on their function. Naval architects accept this classification:
High-speed crafts : high speed water vessels for civilian use. These are most often multihull crafts (which, naturally, have more than one hull) including wave piercers, small-waterplane-area twin hull (SWATH), surface effect ships and hovercraft, hydrofoil, wing in ground effect craft (WIG).
Off shore oil vessels : which serve offshore drilling rigs. Some of these are platform supply vessels (which supply offshore oil platforms), pipe layers, accommodation and crane barges (ships with a crane specialized in lifting heavy loads), non and semi-submersible drilling rigs, production platforms (oil platforms), floating production storage and offloading units (factories on water).
Fishing vessels : ship used to catch fish in the sea, on a lake or a river. These are also divided on motorized and traditional (sailing.) To motorized fishing vessels belong fishing trawlers (those that pull a fishing nest through the water behind them), trap setters (those that carry and set traps for fishes), seiners (ships that drag so called dragnet behind them), longliners (carry lines with baited hooks), similar to longliners - trollers and factory ships for processing and freezing caught fish. Traditional are sailing and rowed fishing vessels and boats used for handline fishing.
Harbor work ships : those that work in the area of the harbor. Some of them are cable layers (used to lay underwater cables for telecommunications, electric power transmission, or other purposes), tugboats (maneuvers vessels by pushing or towing them), dredgers (excavation ships) salvage vessels (used to recover a ship, its cargo, or other property after a shipwreck), tenders (used by a ship to transport people and/or supplies to and from shore or another ship), pilot boats (used to transport pilots between land and the inbound or outbound ships that they are piloting), floating dry docks (a type of pontoon for dry docking ships), floating cranes (vessel with a crane), and a lightership (a type of flat-bottomed barge used to transfer goods and passengers to and from moored ships.)
Dry cargo ships : designed to transport unpackaged bulk cargo. Some of them are tramp freighters (ships that don’t have a fixed schedule or published ports of call), bulk carriers, cargo liners (general cargo and passengers), container vessels (carry truck-size intermodal containers), barge carriers, Ro-Ro ships (Roll-on/roll-off ships for wheeled cargo), refrigerated cargo ships, timber carriers, livestock and light vehicle carriers.
Liquid cargo ships : ships designed to transport liquids in bulk. They are generally oil tankers, liquefied gas carriers, chemical carriers.
Passenger vessels : merchant ships whose primary function is to carry passengers. These belong to this category: liners (transport people from one seaport to another), cruise (for pleasure voyages), and Special Trade Passenger (STP) ships; cross-channel, coastal and harbor ferries (carry passengers, vehicles and cargo across shorter routes), luxury and cruising yachts, sail training and ships with more than one mast that still carry passengers.
Recreational boats and crafts : - ships with oars, masts or motors but used for recreation.
Special-purpose vessels : ships with particular purposes (most often science) like weather and research vessels, deep sea survey vessels, and icebreakers that use their own weight to break the ice on the poles and allow other ships to pass.
Submersibles : small vehicles designed to operate underwater (but not in class of submarines) like for industrial exploration, scientific research, tourist and hydrographic survey.
Warships : vessels in the Navy. Divided in surface warships (deep and shallow draft) and those that work under surface of water: submarines.