What is Bulk Cargo

Personal and commercial cargo differs in a variety a ways, especially in the quantities shipped and the way they are freighted. Personal cargo, due to often-small quantities, will be carried either over air cargo, or through container cargo. With commercial cargo and its high volumes, you are often required to use bulk or break cargo. However, often, many do not understand the difference between bulk and break cargo. In this blog post, we look at just that in hope of educating you on the dynamics of bulk commercial freight forwarders and how cargo is handled.

Many people tend to interchange the terms on a day-to-day basis; however, these shipping terms are distinctively different from each other based on the cargo’s nature and its size, the capacity of the vessel, as well as the type of trade, infrastructure, to name a few.

As the term implies, this type of cargo involves commercial dry cargo for trade that is handled in high volumes. Items handled through bulk cargo are handled in bulk form; they loaded straight into the hold the vessel. Common cargo carried over bulk carrier ships include the likes of grains, coal, and cement to name a few, and there are various types of bulk carrier vessels depending on the capacities required.

The maximum cargo a bulk cargo vessel can carry is 400, 000 DWT (deadweight tonnage). They include the likes of the following.

  • Very Large Carriers
    • Chinamax/Valemax – 400,000 DWT Plus
    • ULOC – 300,000 – 399, 999 DWT
    • VLOC – 200,000 – 299, 999 DWT
  • Capesize – 100,000 – 199, 999 DWT
  • Panamax – 60,000 – 99,999 DWT
  • Handysize
    • Supramax – 50,000 – 59,999 DWT
    • Handymax – 40,000 – 49,999 DWT
    • Handy – < 40,000 DWT

These bulk carriers often hold the same structural design, where you have several cargo holds divided between the length of the carrier, but only comes with a single deck where the various cargo will be loaded or carried accordingly using cranes and more.  The cargo holds may be used by one customer or several different customers.

Bulk cargo handling requires different infrastructure, and need to be loaded on dedicated terminals, and the type of vessels are essentially either gearless (vessels do not come with loading equipment) and geared (vessels come with own loading equipment). No cargo is carried on the deck of the vessels. Freight charges for bulk cargo are based on metric ton against the quantity of cargo loaded.

Image: ARL