Ramps VS Gangways: Which is Suitable for You? - Hisea Dock

Ramps VS Gangways: Which is Suitable for Your Business?



When it comes to marine access solutions, ramps and gangways are two of the most popular options for accessing boats and other watercraft. Both options have their unique strengths and weaknesses, and choosing the right solution for your business can be a challenging decision.

In this article, we will explore the key factors to consider when choosing between ramps vs gangways for your marine access needs, and we will also highlight the unique features and benefits of each option.

The Definitions of Ramps and Gangways

When it comes to waterfront access, ramps and gangways are two commonly used structures that provide safe and easy access to boats and docks. While they may look similar, there are some notable differences between the two.


A ramp is a sloping structure that connects two different levels or places with different heights, such as the shore and the water. Ramps are typically wider than gangways, making them suitable for moving large items, such as kayaks, canoes, and small boats, in and out of the water.

They are needed to make access easier from the floating dock to the river, lake, or any water body where the boat dock ramp is positioned. They are usually made of durable materials like aluminum, steel, or wood and come in various sizes and shapes to accommodate different watercraft and shore configurations.

a dock with a ramp attached


A gangway is a narrow, elevated structure that connects a fixed point on land, such as a dock, to a floating structure, such as a boat or a floating dock. Gangways are designed to be lightweight and flexible, allowing them to adjust to changing water levels and movement. They are usually made of aluminum or fiberglass and come in different lengths and widths to suit different applications.

A woman walking on a gangway

Ramps VS Gangways: Different Approaches

When choosing between ramps and gangways for your waterfront, there are several factors to consider. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your specific needs.

Water Area Conditions 

When choosing between a ramp and a gangway, it is important to consider the water area conditions. Different water areas present different challenges and demands for boat dock ramps system. 

Ramps: Suitable for Shallow Water Conditions

Ramps are typically suitable for use in shallow water conditions, with a maximum water depth of around 2 to 3 feet. They do not require much in the way of additional support structures, making them ideal for situations where the dock is located in relatively shallow water near the shoreline.

Gangways: Suitable for Fluctuating or Rough Water

Gangways are ideal for areas with fluctuating or rough water conditions, as they provide a stable and secure walkway that can adjust to changing water levels. Gangways are designed with a flexible connection to the dock or shoreline, allowing them to move independently of the water level and prevent damage from wave action or other environmental factors. 

In addition, dock gangway often has non-slip surfaces and handrails on both sides to ensure safe and secure passage for users, even in challenging water conditions.

Safety Considerations 

Ramps are usually without handrails hence they might not be very safe for use, while gangways provide extra support to the user with the help of the rails attached on both sides.

Ramps: Without Railing

Ramps usually lack handrails or other safety features. Without a railing to hold onto, it can be dangerous for people with limited mobility, young children, or anyone who may slip or trip. 

Ramps can be difficult to use when there is a high wind or during rough water conditions because there is practically nothing to hold on to. Therefore, if you plan to install a ramp, it is essential to consider the safety aspects and provide other means of support, such as a non-slip surface.

Gangways: Handrails on Both Sides

Unlike ramps, gangways typically have handrails on both sides, providing additional safety for those using them. The handrails provide stability and support for users, reducing the risk of falls or accidents. Additionally, the handrails can also help guide people on and off the gangway, further increasing their safety.

When selecting a floating dock gangway, it’s important to consider the height of the handrails as well. They should be high enough to provide support and prevent falls but not so high that they obstruct views or make it difficult to maneuver on and off the gangway. 

Distance from the Coastline 

When it comes to choosing between ramps and gangways, the distance from the shoreline is an important consideration. Let’s take a closer look at each option.

Ramps: Suit for Short Distances 

Ramps are typically designed for shorter distances, so they are more compact and easier to install. They are suitable for a distance that is less than eight feet from the shore to the dock. This eight feet is within the safe limit. Walking a short distance unguarded might not be a difficult thing to do, but it is quite difficult to walk a long distance on a sloppy ramp without a handrail.

Gangways: Suit for Long Distances

Gangways are a better option for long distances because they provide a stable and safe passage from the dock to the shore. The length of gangways can range from a few feet to over 100 feet, making them suitable for different applications, including marinas, ports, and harbors. It is also easy to customise them to suit different shapes and designs linking the dock to the shore.

For Steep Terrain

When choosing between ramps and gangways for steep terrain, ramps are typically the better option due to their ability to cover steep drop-offs while gangways are better on flat terrain. 

Ramps: Be Able to Cover Steep Drop-Offs

Ramps can be a good option for covering steep drop-offs, such as those found on hillsides or embankments. In these situations, ramps can be designed with a gradual slope that allows for safe and easy access up and down the incline. Additionally, ramps can be constructed with a non-slip surface, which can help prevent slips and falls, even in wet or slippery conditions. 

Gangways: Not Ideal for Steep Terrain

Gangways typically require a flat and stable foundation, which may not be possible on steep terrain. If a gangway is necessary in a steep terrain situation, a custom design may be required to ensure safety and stability.

Different Applications 

When it comes to the applications of ramps and gangways, they have different purposes and are best suited for different environments. In this section, we will discuss the specific applications of each.

Ramps: In Residential or Recreational Dock

Ramps are ideal for use in residential or recreational dock settings where the distance from the shoreline is minimal. They are perfect for situations where a gradual slope is needed to make it easier to walk down to the dock. For example, if you have a dock that is only a few feet from the shoreline, a ramp is a great choice.

Gangways: In Industrial Sites

Aluminum gangway is best suited for industrial sites, such as shipping ports, marinas, and piers, where they are subjected to heavy use and fluctuating water levels. They are designed to be more robust than ramps and can handle larger loads, making them ideal for use in loading and unloading cargo. 

Things to Consider Before Choosing Ramps or Gangways 

Ramps vs gangways, there are several factors that should be considered to ensure that the structure meets your specific needs and requirements. 


Durable Materials 

One of these factors is the durability of the materials used in the construction of the structure. Ramps and gangways are typically made from aluminum, polyethylene, or wood, and the choice of material can impact the overall durability and lifespan of the structure. 

Aluminum gangway for dock is a popular choice due to its lightweight, strength, and resistance to corrosion, while polyethylene is a more affordable option that is also lightweight and durable. Wood is a traditional choice that can be aesthetically pleasing, but requires more maintenance than unlike other materials.

Compatible with the Dock 

Different dock types may require different types of gangways or ramps, and the distance between the dock and the coastline can also affect the selection.

The design of the dock should be studied to determine which gangway or ramp will best suit the dock. For instance, aluminum dock ramps are suitable for wooden or aluminum dock. Additionally, the choice should be influenced by the distance between the dock and the coastline. As stated earlier, if the coastline is far, it is best to use a gangway that suits the design of the dock.

Easy Maintenance Design

It is important to choose based on how easy they are to maintain. Ramps typically have fewer moving parts and are simpler in design than gangways, which can make maintenance easier. Additionally, ramps are often constructed with a single solid piece, which eliminates the need for joints or hinges that may require maintenance.

On the other hand, gangways can be designed with modular components that can be easily replaced or upgraded, which can also make maintenance easier. Additionally, gangways can be designed with protective coatings that can help reduce the need for maintenance over time.

Hisea Dock Provides Perfect Ramps for All Your Needs! 

Hisea Dock is a floating dock manufacturer that specializes in providing high-quality ramps and gangways for a wide range of applications. We offer high molecular weight hdpe, better buoyancy and adapted to multiple construction ideas better than our peers.

V Float & Ramp V float
Image source: Hisea Dock

Adopt High Molecular Weight HDPE

One of the key factors that sets Hisea Dock’s ramp V float and other products apart from the competition is the use of high molecular weight HDPE (high-density polyethylene) material. This material is known for its exceptional strength and durability, making it an ideal choice for use in harsh marine environments. It has a similar function to aluminum boat dock ramps.

Better Buoyancy Than Peers

Hisea Dock’s ramps also offer better buoyancy than many of their peers in the industry. The high molecular weight HDPE material used in their ramps provides excellent buoyancy, allowing for greater stability and safety for users. 

The superior buoyancy of Hisea Dock’s ramps is particularly important in areas with strong currents, tides, or waves. The increased stability provided by the ramps can make it easier and safer for users to board and disembark from boats, even in challenging conditions.

Adapted to Multiple Construction Ideas

Hisea Dock’s ramps are designed to be customisable, which means that they can be tailored to suit different sizes, weights, and types of boats. Hisea Dock’s ramps can also be adapted to different docks, including floating, fixed, and piers.


Ramps and gangways have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, choosing the right marine access solution for your needs can be a challenging task. But by considering the key factors of ramps vs gangways in this article, you can make an informed decision that meets your needs. Hisea Dock is specializing in manufacturing plastic pontoons for over 10 years, welcome to contact us for your inquiry and professional advice.

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