BREAK-BULK CARGO: all you need to know

There are many types of Cargo that need to be transported by ship. One type of Cargo that is frequently shipped around the world is Break bulk Cargo. Keep reading this post if you want to know more about break bulk-cargo and its shipping needs.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is Break Bulk Cargo?
  2. A Brief History of Break Bulk Cargo
  3. The Difference Between Bulk and Break-Bulk Cargo
  4. The Advantages of Break Bulk Cargo Shipping
  5. The Disadvantages of Break Bulk Cargo Shipping
  6. Break Bulk Cargo Packaging
  • Bagged Cargo
  • Crates and Corrugated Boxes
  • Barrels and Drums

    7.  Break Bulk Cargo Loading and Unloading


break-bulk cargo

  1. What Is Break Bulk Cargo?

Break-bulk cargo can be any type of cargo that can’t be containerized. It’s cargo that’s too big or oddly shaped for a shipping container. It needs to be loaded onto the vessel and unloaded separately. Break bulk cargo needs to be securely attached to the bottom of the vessel. This prevents it from shifting around during transit, which can cause damage to the ship or other cargo.

Break-bulk cargo is typically more expensive to transport than containerized cargo because of the additional time and labor needed for loading and unloading the cargo. Break bulk cargo also tends to be heavier than containerized cargo and therefore needs to be transported on a ship that can handle its weight.

  1. A Brief History of Break Bulk Cargo

Break bulk cargo originated in the days of sail when ships had to be loaded by hand. This was a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. Break bulk cargo continued to be the norm through the early 20th century.

The advent of containerization in the 1950s significantly increased the efficiency of cargo shipping, but break-bulk cargo remains an important part of the shipping industry.

Today, break bulk cargo is often used for oversized or heavy items that cannot be easily containerized. This includes items like machinery, vehicles, lumber, and steel…

  1. The Difference Between Bulk and Break-Bulk Cargo

Bulk-cargo refers to material that is moved in substantial, unbroken amounts. It is commonly transported in containers, as well as ships, trucks, or trains. This kind of cargo is usually uniform in nature, consisting of the same material throughout (such as coal, grain, or iron ore). Bulk cargo is commonly carried in bulk carriers, which are ships built to transport massive quantities of bulk cargo.

Bulk carrier photo

Break-bulk cargo refers to materials that are transported in smaller packaging, such as pallets, bags, straps, bundles, drums, and crates. It is commonly transported by ships, although it can also be transported by trucks or trains. This type of cargo is usually diverse, consisting of various materials such as cars, lumber, and machinery. General cargo vessels are typically used to transport break bulk cargo, as they are specifically designed to accommodate different types of cargo.

Break-bulk cargo photo

  1. The Advantages of Break Bulk Cargo Shipping

There are numerous benefits associated with break bulk cargo shipping. One key advantage is the ability of break bulk cargo ships to transport a wide range of goods, including oversized and heavy lift items that may not be suitable for transportation on container ships.

Another advantage is the cost-effectiveness of break bulk cargo shipping compared to container shipping. Container ships require specialized equipment and infrastructure, which can significantly increase expenses.

Furthermore, break bulk cargo shipping generally offers shorter transit times compared to container shipping. Container ships often must make multiple stops at various ports to load and unload cargo, whereas break bulk cargo ships can expedite the process. This is particularly advantageous for time-sensitive shipments.

Lastly, break bulk cargo shipping provides greater flexibility than container shipping. Cargo can be loaded and unloaded at any port that can accommodate the ship, eliminating the need for specific infrastructure requirements.

Overall, break bulk cargo shipping offers a range of advantages, including versatility, cost-effectiveness, shorter transit times, and the ability to transport a diverse range of goods.

  1. The Disadvantages of Break Bulk Cargo Shipping

Break bulk cargo shipping poses a significant drawback due to its high labor intensity, necessitating a substantial amount of manpower for loading and unloading. This can result in delays and additional expenses. Moreover, handling and storing break bulk cargo is typically more challenging compared to containerized cargo, leading to further delays and costs. Additionally, break bulk cargo is more susceptible to damage and theft than containerized cargo, potentially causing losses for the shipper.

  1. Break Bulk Cargo Packaging

Break bulk cargo packaging can be done in a number of ways as the following:

  • Bagged Cargo

Bagged cargo refers to a type of break bulk cargo packaging in which goods are first placed in bags before being loaded onto a vessel. Common examples of items shipped in bags include grain, coffee beans, and sugar. Due to the nature of these items, they are best suited for bagged packaging to ensure protection from external elements during transportation. While bagged cargo may incur higher shipping costs compared to other methods, it offers reassurance to shippers concerned about potential damage to their goods while in transit.

Bagged Cargo photo

  • Crates and Corrugated Boxes

Crates and corrugated boxes are widely used for packaging break bulk cargo due to their strength and ability to be stacked, making them perfect for storing and moving large amounts of products. Common items shipped in these containers include furniture, appliances, machinery, machine parts, and fruits. To ensure stability and ease of loading, crates and corrugated boxes are usually placed on pallets during transportation.

Crates and Corrugated Boxes photo

  • Barrels and Drums

Barrels and drums are commonly used as break bulk packaging for liquids, powders, and dry goods. They come in various sizes and can be made from plastic, metal, or wood. Due to their affordability and ease of transportation, barrels and drums are a popular choice for break bulk packaging. They can be stacked to save space and are reusable, making them a sustainable option. Products like crude oil, paint, alcoholic beverages, grains, flour, sugar, salt, coffee beans, and tea leaves are often packaged in barrels and drums. To prevent rolling when stored horizontally, heavy-duty wedges are necessary, and packing material may be used to prevent friction between barrels.

Barrels and Drums photo

  1. Break Bulk Cargo Loading and Unloading

  • Preparing the Vessel: Before receiving a break bulk load, the ship’s holds or storage spaces must be washed, cleaned, and dried.
  • Securing the Vessel: This can be done by mooring the vessel to a pier or anchoring it in a safe location. Once the vessel is secured, the next step is to prepare the cargo for loading. This involves ensuring that the cargo is properly packaged and labeled.
  • Loading the Cargo onto the Vessel: This can be done using a crane or other lifting device. The cargo must be placed in the correct location on the vessel so that it is secure and will not shift during transit.
  • Securing the Cargo: This can be done by tying it down or using straps. Once the cargo is secure, the vessel can be prepared for departure.
  • Unloading the cargo from the Vessel: This can be done using a crane or other lifting device. The cargo must be placed in the correct location on the pier or receiving area to be properly unloaded.
  • Inspecting the Cargo for Damage: If there is any damage, it must be reported to make proper repairs. Once the cargo is inspected, it can be delivered to the destination.
  • Preparing for the Next Load: After unloading is finished, a ship’s stowage space must be thoroughly cleaned, scrubbed, and dried before it is prepared to accept the next load.


Need Help with Shipping Your Break Bulk Cargo?

RANDY LOGISTICS Services is specialiazed in shipping a while range of break-bulk cargo with partners worldwide. We can help you move your break bulk cargo with a fleet of ships designed to transport this type of cargo safely and efficiently.

We also offer various packaging options to protect your cargo during shipping. We offer competitive rates and can work with you to find the most affordable shipping solution for your needs.

Contact us today for a consultation and to ask for a free quote for your shipment.



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