If you’ve ever taken your car abroad you’ve probably driven over a linkspan. Originally, linkspans were bridges that were hinged at the landward side and free moving at the seaward end, allowing the bridge to rise and fall with the motion of the water. The bridge was connected to a ship by means of a ramp over which vehicles could be driven.
The name is now something of a generic term that refers to any type of facility which allows vehicles to drive from a place on shore directly onto a ferry, regardless of the state of the tide or the attitude of the vessel. These bridge to ship structures have led to the success of the roll-on/roll-off ferries which carry millions of passengers, cars and lorries every year. For example, the port of Dover, which built its first roll-on/roll-off facilities in 1953, now transports around 5 million vehicles each year.