Why Cruise Ships Are White – If I say the word “ship” to you. What color will it be in your imagination? Probably white. We’re used to seeing big white cruise ships. Is this color necessary or just fancy? It turns out there are a lot of reasons for it, but not all of them are true. Cars come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Yellow, green, purple, red – you name it.
You might think that the sea of car colors would make documentation more complicated,but it’s not. You don’t need to write down what special tone of magenta your car is, it can be marked as a generalized color – red. So there are absolutely no problems with color choice, giving you the option to paint your car any color you like.
Then why do ships still all look the same? Some people say it’s because the white color is better for detection, both visual and on the radar too. They assume the white color reflects the radio signal much better than any other color. Others say that it could literally replace an air conditioning system and save a ton of energy for the ship.
The obvious reason would be that it’s easier to spot rust, minor hull damage and dirt on white. And finally, there’s the reasonable thought that it just looks good, and costs less to maintain that nice image. Which theories are true and which aren’t? You can guess yourself and answer in the comment section right now, before I elaborate on each one of them and shed light on the truth.
Let’s see who can get it right! Get started by preparing yourself for the truth: wipe out that image of the imaginary ship from your mind, because they aren’t all white. And ironically, this very fact gives us a clue to the reason why white is one of the more frequent choices for ships’ color. Most small boats are whatever colors their owners want them to be.
So one thing we already know here is that the white color isn’t some kind of rule from a mariner’s book or something. Big cruise ships are often navy-blue or even red in color. It mostly depends on the brand or company under which they fall. Huge liners or tankers are mostly black with a brownish-red color right above the waterline of their hull.
The white color is most often worn by luxury yachts and smaller cruise ships. Notice that sneaky clue I mentioned? Let’s see. Imagine if ships were to wear colors that would be more noticeable in the sea than others. They certainly wouldn’t be blue then!And not white either. If you’ve ever been in high seas that are also coincidentally called blue waters, you know that sometimes all you can see around you is blue.
When the weather is calm, it’s even hard to figure out where the sea ends and the sky begins! The white color could possibly be helpful here to spot a decently sized ship, but clouds and reflections of light in the waves are also white. And here’s another clue: try to remember things that are specially designed to be easily spotted in the blue water: like buoys, life rafts, and life jackets.
They’re a bright and fluorescent orange in color because it’s the very opposite color to navy blue. Let’s agree, though, that if whole ships were neon orange, that would just be horrible for the eyes. After all, we use radars to find lost ships. Speaking of which, the white color will do nothing for radar detection. Metal already does everything.
Fun fact: metal hulls are extremely good at reflecting radio signals, no matter what color they are. If the hull is made of fiberglass like a lot of yachts’ hulls are, then they’ll have some metal part in them to reflect the radar. That means that white has absolutely no impact on any kind of detection in the sea, so we can rule this reason out for good.
Hopping from one major clue in this search for truth to another, we stumble upon the fact that some ships aren’t made of metal, but epoxy and fiberglass instead. This epoxy is naturally white, so it’s easier to cover it in varnish and then leave it be. This way it’s not only easier and cheaper to make a ship look really nice, but it also deflects the possibility of mold that can form in a layer of paint.
If you keep in mind how aggressive saltwater is, any paint could become a concern. For metal ships, it gets even worse because they have to deal with rust. Tanker staff learned one trick that helps with that, and it’s definitely not white paint. It’s red paint, obviously. This is why some ships keep their hull red under the waterline.
It’s basically cheating, but I can understand the crew – it would be such a drag to try to maintain the paint and recover it from rusty stains if it was all white!In addition, the black color of the upper hull, both on huge liners and on tankers,serves a similar purpose since oil can be spilled onto the hull’s surface quite often and leave nasty stains on it.
There were some cases when the captain of a tanker would intentionally give an order to paint the ship pure white! This would keep the crew so busy that they’d become more disciplined than ever, simply because they wouldn’t have any spare time to mess around. But of course, that’s not the reason why cruise ships are mostly white.
That would just be cruel! And one other thing about black ship hulls. Try to go out in the middle of the summer dressed in black from head to toe – that would also be a cruel thing. Imagine what happens to a ship that’s painted black! And you can hide in the shade if it’s too hot for you, but in the middle of the ocean, unfortunately, that just won’t cut it.
There’s absolutely no place to hide from the sun in the sea except the ship itself. And a ship with a black hull would be heated like a sauna. Its air conditioning systems would be racing to their absolute limit and still wouldn’t be entirely successful at keeping it cool. Let alone how wasteful that would be in terms of energy.
The reason is simple. The black color absorbs almost all the sunlight it catches; this color has no reflective abilities. Sunlight isn’t only bright, but it also transfers energy in the form of heat. The more light gets absorbed – the more heating power it generates. Red can reflect more light; up to 40% of it just bounces off and doesn’t produce heat. Grey is slightly better.
It can deflect half of all light, so a grey hull will heat up two times slower than a black one. But white is simply the best at reflecting the sun. It’s not a coincidence that we perceive light as white. White reflects all the wavelengths of light which, separately, would look like different colors to us, but altogether they make up white.
The white-colored ships would only absorb 20% of all the sunlight, so it won’t heat up as much. This immensely reduces the stress on air conditioning systems and works wonders for energy efficiency. This reason is the absolute winner among the possible explanations of why ships are often white-colored. But this color can do a lot of other things: it’s easier to spot minor flaws in the hull’s coverage on white. And white ships look cool and respectable in general. Did you guess any of these, or did your opinion fail to pass the test? I bet you passed.