A coupled numerical model considering nonlinear sloshing flows and the linear ship motions has been developed based on a boundary element method. Hydrodynamic performances of a tank containing internal fluid under regular wave excitations in sway are investigated by the present time-domain simulation model and comparative model tests. The numerical model features well the hydrodynamic performance of a tank and its internal sloshing flows obtained from the experiments. In particular, the numerical simulations of the strong nonlinear sloshing flows at the natural frequency have been validated. The influence of the excitation wave height and wave frequency on ship motions and internal sloshing has been investigated. The magnitude of the internal sloshing increases nonlinearly as the wave excitation increases. It is observed that the asymmetry of the internal sloshing relative to still water surface becomes more pronounced at higher wave excitation. The internal sloshing-induced wave elevation is found to be amplitude-modulated. The frequency of the amplitude modulation envelope is determined by the difference between the incident wave frequency and the natural frequency of the internal sloshing. Furthermore, the coupling mechanism between ship motions and internal sloshing is discussed. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.