Wilhelmsen Lines of Norway will decide soon which shipyard will build its ground-breaking design for a fourth generation of roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) vessels. The carrier has short-listed five yards in Europe, Korea and Japan to build up to three Mark IV ro-ro vessels for delivery from 2000. The ships will replace Wilhelmsen's car carriers that have been supplementing the company's nine traditional ro-ros. The new vessels integrate features of a car-truck-carrier in a traditional ro-ro design but will be about 24.6 metres shorter than the third-generation vessels. The vessels will be 240 metres in length with decks six, seven, eight and nine covered, increasing protected stowage space for non-containerised ro-ro cargo and cars by about 35 per cent. Deck six is the former weather deck, which on Mark III can accommodate up to 1,350 teu (20 ft equivalent units) of containers. 'We thought long and hard before reaching the decision to eliminate the weather deck container capacity,' Wilhelmsen executive vice-president Nils Petter Dyvik said. The carrier was providing more protected stowage space as that was what customers were projected to require over the course of the next 10 to 15 years. Mr Dyvik said Wilhelmsen had not retired the Mark III design, and could return to it if market trends indicated the need. The new ro-ros will operate on Wilhelmsen's round-the-world routing. Financing is in place as part of an overall refinancing of Wilhelmsen's ship mortgage loans.