The difference between a steamer and a motor ship.

For many millennia, the two "engines" for sea and river vessels were the wind (sailing fleet) and the muscular power of people (rowing fleet) or their combination. Naturally, with the spread of sea travel, this ceased to suit humanity, and attempts to find alternative ways of moving on water were made more than once. A test commercial voyage on a steamer was made in 1807, and research for a more economical and high-speed engine continued in the 19th century, and the first ship appeared almost 100 years later - in 1903. What is the difference between a steamer and a motor ship, and why did steamboats (that is, ships moving with the help of a steam engine) lose the technical race to ships on which an internal combustion engine is installed?

From the history of the steamer and motor ship

The first steam engine was created by the ancient inventor and mechanic Heron of Alexandria in the 1st century AD. True, due to the availability of free slave labor at that time, the mechanism did not receive distribution and was used as a toy or as an exotic thing - for example, to open doors in churches, supply "holy" water and for some other purposes. With the death of the genius, the invention was forgotten, and work on the creation of a steam engine resumed in the New Time (17th century). Throughout the 18th century, more or less successful attempts were made to develop a steam engine, and finally, in 1807, the first commercial steamship "Claremont" sailed along the American Hudson River.

The main difference between a steamer and a motor ship is in the type of engine. The steam engine uses the energy of the steam pressure generated by heating the water. On ships, an internal combustion engine is used. It is almost always a diesel engine, in which the piston is pushed by the exhaust gases formed in the engine cylinders during the combustion of diesel fuel (diesel fuel).

The "father" of the first diesel engine in 1897 was the German Rudolf Diesel, who gave the mechanism his name. The following year, the drawings were acquired by the Swedish inventor Nobel, who at that time lived in the Russian Empire and was engaged in the development of oil fields in Baku. And in 1903, the engines he created were installed on the Vandal tanker, the world's first motor ship. So the primacy in this area belongs to our country.


The main reason why the ship ultimately outperformed the steamer is the difference in engine efficiency. The steam engine has a significantly lower efficiency (efficiency). In addition to this circumstance, the following advantages of a diesel engine play in favor of the ship:

  • lower fuel consumption, which results in:
  • higher carrying capacity;
  • greater power reserve;
  • higher engine reliability.

However, despite the obvious advantages of the ship, the steamers did not disappear completely. True, now they account for a scanty share of river or sea transportation, since they are mainly used as "banquet boats" - for corporate events, anniversaries or other holidays. The oldest steamer in Russia "N. V. Gogol "runs along the Northern Dvina River and is assigned to the port of the city of Severodvinsk (Arkhangelsk Region). According to its owner, “N. V. Gogol "is also a" banquet walker ".


The compact table summarizes the difference between a steamer and a motor ship.

Steamer Motor ship
What isWaterborne transport, which uses a machine to move using the force of steam pressure generated by heating waterWaterborne transport, which uses a diesel engine to move using the force of exhaust gas pressure formed during the combustion of diesel fuel (diesel fuel). There are combined ships - diesel-electric ships, in which a diesel engine rotates an electric motor, which, in turn, rotates a propeller
FeaturesEconomic efficiency is low and much inferior to efficiency motor ship; has a great tourist potential among lovers of retro styleHigh economic efficiency due to the advantages of a diesel engine over a steam engine