Before containerisation, apart from bulk, most cargoes were handled as general cargoes. Even vehicles were handled as general cargo before the advent of vehicle carriers and ro-ro vessels. Most ships had their own handling facilities in the form of derricks. Now the majority of cargo is shipped in containers, negating the need for ships to have their own cargo handling gear, relying entirely on shore facilities.
Much of the general cargo carried now is of a type that cannot be readily packed into containers. General cargo is loaded from the dock by traditional dockside cranes except where the weight precludes this. To speed up loading, much of the cargo is unitised. The process of unitising consists of strapping together individual items of cargo to form a single unit. Ships designed to carry heavy cargoes usually have their own cargo handling gear in the form of heavy duty derricks or cranes.
Many ships now have cranes instead of derricks. With the boom in the boating leisure market, some companies now specialise in the transportation of luxury pleasure craft. The craft are either lifted off the dock or can be directly lifted from the water. The boats are lifted using a spreader frame with cargo straps.