The ships were merchant ships chartered by the New Zealand Government and converted to carry troops. Some ships were passenger liners and others were originally built to carry cargo.
Throughout the War, 111 charters were made. It took the first 10 troopships carrying the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force 48 days to sail from Wellington to Egypt. Depending on the type of ship, troopship journeys could be as short as a month and some longer than 2 months.